Winter Fishing on the Emerald Coast


By Cali Hlavac

As colder temps roll in, we start to target more inshore species – specifically Flounder, Redfish and Trout. The cooler weather means the fish will school up in one area, making them easier to catch once you track them down.

Flounder will be in the Bay and Gulf this month, as November and December feature some of the best flounder action of the year. The move here allows them to settle on natural and artificial reefs to spawn at this time.

Because of their shape, flounder are typically always found on the bottom, where they can burrow into sand to await prey. They hang within 200 yards off the beach, typically at depths of 20 to 60 feet. Common flounder species in the Gulf of Mexico are the Gulf Flounder and the Southern Flounder, and odds are the latter will be a much larger fish – with the female Southern Flounder maxing out around 28 inches. One of the best things about targeting flounder is that they like to come back for your bait if they miss it the first time. So, just hold out and wait on them!

As for Trout, find them in deeper water this time of year, specifically around deep water boat docks, bridges, and deep holes in the bayous and channels. Fish for these using live shrimp, pinfish, and croakers on a Carolina rig or under a popping cork. Try a slow troll to find the fish, with a shrimp soft tail plastic jig, and then once you get a hit, switch to live bait to maximize your chances at a bite.

Another favorite to catch are Bull Redfish, which show up in droves during winter months. Find them in the passes, deep channels, deep-water bridges and schooled up on the beaches. These bull reds are fun to catch and release as the bigger size means they put up a bigger fight. Use lures or live bait, as what they prefer will vary day to day. The larger size also means they’re spawning. So, handle these fish with care. Use circle hooks and a net to control the fish and release them safely.

Winter fishing rivals warm weather fishing here on the Emerald Coast. So, if you can handle the cooler weather, you’re sure to have a great time on the water!