You may find reds along with big trout concentrated in potholes, along with the edges of bars or tailing on shallow grass flats on negative low tides this month. This is a good month for catch and release snook action around lighted docks in the ICW. Some lights will also have trout and reds making it possible to get a dock “slam”. There may also be good action in the coastal gulf with false albacore (little tunny), Spanish mackerel and tripletail, depending on conditions.
Snook and reds remain closed on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has enacted a temporary modification of regulations for reds and snook, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds and snook are catch and release only in that zone until May 10, 2019. Full details including exact boundaries can be found at http://myfwc.com/news/news-releases/2018/september/26/comm-red-tide/.
Catch and release snook fishing around lighted docks at night can be good in December unless it gets too cool. I won’t target snook following a strong cold front or if the water temperature dips below 60 degrees. Since they may be stressed at that time. However, it can be very good in December under normal conditions. Larger baitfish will thin out and snook will gorge themselves on glass minnows and small shrimp in the ICW at night. I like docks that have a good tidal flow and deep water under them. Fly anglers should do well with sink tip fly lines and small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow. Shrimp Gurglers on floating lines may work well when snook are chasing shrimp in the lights. Fish peak tidal flows for the fastest action.
You may find Reds in potholes or along the edges of flats and bars when the tide is low. They may also tail on shallow grass flats of lower Tampa Bay or Gasparilla Sound on negative low tides. Lightly weighted flies, like my Grassett Flats Minnow, will work well in that situation. Weed guards are also important when targeting reds on shallow grass. Spoon flies are another good choice when hunting for reds although you may need to add a small (#10) black barrel swivel ahead of your bite tippet to prevent twist in your leader depending on the style of spoon fly you use, some will wobble while others may spin if stripped fast. You may also find reds around docks this month. Use a sink tip fly line and a weighted fly to get your fly into the strike zone for reds. You may find big trout in skinny water this month in many of the same areas where you find reds. The same flies and techniques that I use for reds will also work for trout in the same areas. I release all big trout (over 20”) since they are usually females and I feel it is important that they are left in the water as breeders.
Other Available Catch
You should also find trout on deep grass flats this month along with blues, Spanish mackerel, flounder or pompano. Blues and mackerel will sometimes feed on the surface in the bay, so bird activity may give their presence away. Pompano may skip when you drift or run past them and when that happens, circle back upwind and drift through the area casting ahead of your drift. Flounder prefer a mix of sand and grass, particularly in potholes or on the edges of bars. Fly anglers should score with sink tip fly lines and weighted flies, like Ultra Hair Clousers or my Grassett Deep Flats Bunny fly, which behaves like a jig with a shad tail. I tie Ultra Hair Clousers on long shank hooks, leaving a portion of the hook shank exposed when toothy fish are around. I like the shallow flats of the south shore of Tampa Bay and Gasparilla Sound for reds and trout and deep grass flats that are close to passes, on points and along sand bars for trout, blues, flounder and pompano in December.
There is usually good variety and action on deep grass flats during December. Mireya Castillo (top), from Salt Lake City, UT, with a nice bluefish and Bill Morrison (below), from Anna Maria Island, with a pompano caught on flies while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett on different trips in a previous December.
Capt. Rick Grassetts Snook Minnow From Orvis
There should still be good action in the coastal gulf with Spanish mackerel, blues, false albacore, and tripletail. Look for terns either diving or hovering low over the surface of the water to find albies, blues, and mackerel feeding just below the surface. Once you’ve found them, cast glass minnow fly patterns, poppers or Crease flies to them. Fly poppers may draw fish to the surface, especially over a structure. You’ll need to add wire or heavy fluorocarbon to your leader when blues and mackerel are around. Look for tripletail around crab trap floats or channel markers. Once you’ve located a fish, work back into the wind or current with an electric trolling motor to get into casting range and cast a lightly weighted fly to them. Weed guards are important to avoid hooking the crab trap lines.
There should be lots of options in December, although the weather becomes more of a factor. When conditions are good, I like to fish the coastal gulf for albies, tripletail and more. If you’re able to choose when to fish, fish ahead of fronts or on the strongest tides for the best action. Shallow water action can be very good on low winter tides. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural and residential runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!
December is usually a good month to fly fish the coastal gulf. Lynn Skipper, from Apollo Beach, FL, had good action catching and releasing false albacore (little tunny) and tripletail on flies while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous December.
Capt. Rick Grassetts Flats Minnow from Orvis
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Capt. Rick Grassett
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