Here we go, another great fishing year is just beginning and even though it may be cold outside, there’s plenty of great fishing action to get it going. The weather can play a huge role in what species we can target this time of year and some days it’s just too windy and cold to leave the safety of the rivers. When these conditions arise, we’re very fortunate to have the spring-fed rivers keeping our inshore species warm for the winter season.
Starting at the headwaters of the Crystal and Homosassa rivers, anglers can encounter a multitude of species including mangrove snapper, jack crevalle, trout, redfish, ladyfish, tarpon, snook and even largemouth bass. The fish are in the rivers for one reason: warmth. So small jigs like the DOA CAL shad tail and MirrOLure Lil’ Johns in the darker colors are ideal choices. Slowly working the baits in the deeper pockets, jigging the rocky points along the river bends, or simply anchoring up tide from the deeper holes and sending down some live shrimp are three excellent methods for hook-ups. If there are mangrove snapper and redfish around, the shrimp technique is going to be your best bet. Both of these species seldom refuse a live shrimp and a simple knocker rig with a 1/0 hook and 1/8-ounce egg sinker is all that’s necessary for success. Also, bring plenty of tackle; the rocky bottom terrain can claim several hooks throughout the day.
On days when it’s favorable to run offshore, the sheepshead will be waiting on just about every piece of structure that can grow a barnacle. It seems the colder the water, the better for sheepshead. Rock piles, ledges, channel markers, wrecks and artificial reefs are havens for them. They congregate around these structures for their spawning season during the colder months. To catch a couple sheepies, anchor up tide from the structure and be as close to the structure as possible while using a 1/8-ounce Hank Brown jig head rigged with a live shrimp. Remember, these fish are spawning and it’s best to just take a few home for a meal and release the others to breed for our future stock.
For our final winter species, the large, breeder-size black drums have taken over the flats from Mangrove Point to St. Martin’s Keys. These large fish don’t make big, long runs, but on light tackle, they put up one long tug of war. Sight-fish them just like tailing redfish and present a piece of a quartered blue crab for a one-on-one battle.
Also, if the weather has you down, take the time and do a little maintenance. Check rod guides for cracks, service your reels and re-spool with fresh line for the upcoming spring. Inspect your boat trailer hardware, check bearings and have your motor serviced, so when March comes around, you’re ready to hit the water.
As always, if you have any additional questions about the area, feel free to contact me. Good fishing!
Capt. Dan Clymer was born and raised on the Crystal River and has been fishing Citrus County’s waters his entire life. Dan is a full-time guide, chartering the Crystal and Homosassa rivers and a proud member of the Homosassa Guides Association. He has had his captain’s license since the age of 18 and specializes in shallow water grouper, flats and back country fishing. Dan has been featured in numerous magazines, on serveral television shows and is endorsed by Orvis.Contact Info: Capt. Dan Clymer(p) 352 418–2160(w) crystalriver-fishing.com