You can sum up this winter with one word; Tough!
The fishing has certainly taken a hit from the low temperatures and rough waters. water temps in the local bays remain in the mid 50s and just above that on the beaches. Offshore, you'll have to put a number of miles behind you just to reach the mid 60s. It is certainly cold compared to the average water temps for this time of year, but it shouldn't discourage you from getting out on the nicer days.
The inshore bite has been slow, but you can work up a decent stringer of Speckled Trout by fishing the creeks and mid-stretches of the coastal rivers. The specks are going to be deep and using live baits like shrimp or small finger mullet along with slowly worked soft plastics will score on the lethargic trout. Warmer days may see some trout moving into the shallows, but the best bet is to stay deep and work baits slowly.
Sheepshead have moved in but it'll be a couple more weeks before the masses swarm around inshore structure in preparation for the spring spawn. We will need the water temperatures to creep back into the low to mid 60s to see the spawning aggregations. At that time, they will be feeding heavily ahead of the spawn and baits of shrimp and fiddler crabs will produce. For targeting Sheepshead in the current conditions. Fish deeper areas like the passes, bridge pilings and the Gulf State Park Pier.
In the surf, The whiting bite slowed down a bit with this past weeks cold front, but the bite will improve over the next two weeks as water temps slowly creep back up. The same patterns and baits that have worked throughout the winter will continue to work. Small pieces of shrimp and ghost shrimp will be best fished in the deeper parts of the trough and just beyond the outer bar. Pompano catches have been rare but Black Drum and Redfish continue to be a welcomed bycatch by most surf fishing for Whiting and Redfish can be targeted by fishing fresh, cut mullet in the surf and around Perdido Pass.
Offshore, shallow water grouper season closed on the 1st, leaving Amberjack, Triggerfish and all species of Snappers minus Red Snapper open. The bottom fishing this time of year is generally very good, but I do not have many recent reports as of this time due to the past two weeks sea condition.
A few crews have made the longer runs in pursuit of Tuna and Wahoo and have been rewarded with some nice catches but the average run has been in excess of 90 miles to get in on the action. Still, crews willing will find good action to the rigs to the southwest and for those wanting Wahoo, focus on the rigs in 500-800ft.
I have done a little bit of surf fishing for Whiting over the past couple weeks but have mostly spent this slower time getting the boat ready for the upcoming season. I'm planning on doing some inshore fishing this week though and will report again next week.
Sam's Bait and Tackle
27122 Canal Rd
Orange Beach, Al 36561