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putting a chill on the shallow bays. Wait until the sun goes to work on the water and the breeze picks up to blow away the fog so common on winter bays. Even on cloudy days, the UV rays penetrating the clouds and the water will raise the water temperature 5-8 degrees. This will, in turn, raise the


Maximum yield with minimal


effort is how reds and trout thrive in winter.


fishes’ body temperature 5-8 degrees. Remember, fish are cold-blooded crea- tures and there are no fleece jackets down there like the one you are wear- ing on the trip out. Fish later in the day — you won’t regret it.


SLOW DOWN


Everything a fish does in the winter is slower than it is in other seasons. He moves slower, feeds slower, “sleeps” more. He is driven by his metabolism, and in winter it’s SLOW. When metab- olism slows down, fish will eat less and less often. Lucky for the anglers, there is a lot less food in the bay for them to eat so they cannot afford to be quite so selective. Hungry fish focus on one big meal versus an all-day buffet. Even their digestion is slower, which is why you often find big wintertime trout with a tail belonging to an eight-inch mullet hanging out of its mouth look- ing fresh dead when its head is dis- solved and unrecognizable. When pur- suing these fish, think and act like they do. Maximum yield with minimal effort is how reds and trout thrive in winter. Adjusting your pace to theirs will help produce success.


Move your feet slower if you are wading. Instead of covering a half mile on a wade, cover 200 yards but do so thoroughly. If the water is right and the bait is present, maybe move only 50 yards. Wait them out, get a bait right in front of them, create an instinct strike instead of one driven by hunger. Key in on structures like depressions or shell humps on the bottom or bait move- ment. Even crab traps can hold fish in


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the winter — they get restocked with food every day and bits of menhaden drifting in the current will keep fish close by. Keep your lure in the dirtier water, and in the strike zone as long as possible. If you get a hit, even one you think is small, stop right there and work the area over. One fish means favorable conditions, and favorable conditions often mean many fish. Move your bait slower. Don’t make a fish chase your lure or bait; he won’t. Remember slow metabolism, slow fish. Use suspending twitch baits like Corkies and MirrOlures and fish them slow. Another effective winter bait is the curl tail grub. It maximizes bait motion while minimizing bait move- ment. The jig can just sit on the bottom and the current will move that curl tail and generate all the motion necessary to create a strike. That presentation imitates the sand eel, a favorite food of both reds and specks in winter. These eels stick their heads and a few inches of their bodies out of the soft sand or mud to catch a passing meal. They sway in the current with their tails


Fish shallower on warm, sunny days and stay out a little deeper when it is cold and overcast.


firmly locked in a hole on the bottom and fill an empty belly when they are caught off-guard by a passing predator. A fast-action rod and braid on your reel will keep you better in touch with slow-moving baits and light-striking fish. Slower rods and mono may get hit, but you may never feel it. Keep the motion slow and deliberate, the strikes will come. If you were lucky enough to find an open bait stand in the winter and have some live or fresh dead shrimp, the same rules apply. Don’t cast and pop, cast and pop. Don’t keep driving from one spot to the next. Let the bait sit. The fish may be only four feet from your shrimp, but he is not going to burn a lot of calories to get to it. Wait him out, which is easier in the winter because the perch and “trash fish” are not


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around to devour your shrimp. It will still be intact when the fish arrives for his meal.


MUD IS YOUR FRIEND


That’s right, that dreadful black goo that you curse at and avoid the rest of the year is destined to become your favorite winter fishing spot. It is darker in color, which means it absorbs the sun’s rays and warms more quickly. It is also a better insulator than sand or shell, which means it radiates the heat that it absorbs during the day more slowly at night, warming the sur- rounding water like a cozy fish blanket. Warmer sooner and warmer later is a winter recipe for catching fish. If you are wading this type of bot- tom, try to walk on a transition area where shell turns to mud or a sand bar drops off. It will make getting around a lot easier. But if you do have to get off in the gumbo, remember to take it slow. This is not a race, and if you are breath- ing hard you are moving too fast to catch fish there anyway. Current or wind moving over these silted areas create dirtier water, which also warms faster than clear water and creates a more favorable feeding environment. Look for the streaks of dirtier water and concentrate your efforts there. Fish shallower on warm, sunny days and stay out a little deeper when it is cold and overcast. Follow the sig- nals the mullet are giving off, they want to be in the most comfortable water as well. Make sure there is bait present, and that it has all the other characteristics necessary to be a good fishing spot. By doing your homework you will save yourself a lot of unneces- sary exertion.


DRESS FOR SUCCESS


A fishing trip that is cut short due to lack of preparation is never fun. Make sure you are ready for a day of winter fishing. It will make the day more enjoyable, and may even save your life. Always wear more layers than you think you will need. Even if the weather man says it will be 68 degrees, that will most likely happen at 3:00 and it may be a lot cooler before that. Speeding across 50 degree water will chill any- one’s bones even if the air temperature is 68. It is easier to remove layers when you are warm than add layers that you don’t have if you are cold. If wading, make sure your waders


are water tight. Wear a layer of fleece under them, along with some warm


TIDE


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