With winter in full force, the majority of the speckled trout are in the creeks seeking warmer water. The freshwater in the creeks tends to be warmer than the saltwater on the flats, so that's where you'll typically find them this time of year. We have heard reports of one captain that has caught a limit in 3.5' of water on the flats, but most people are catching their limits in the creeks.
Finding the fish this of year is usually not difficult, but finding big fish can be. We've heard reports of many fisherman catching boatloads of 14" inch fish, but struggling to find keepers. Some have reported catching 50-75 short fish in a single trip.
The big fish are there, you just have to find them. Big fish tend to run with other big fish and the smaller fish will run together as well. This is because the big fish require more heat to warm their bodies in this cool weather. As a result, they'll seek areas with warmer water. The smaller fish don't have as much body to warm, so they'll move a little more.
Big temperature swings will also have a greater affect on the larger fish as opposed to the smaller ones. A sharp drop in temperatures will cause the bigger fish to slow their bite for a couple days. That's because it takes them longer to adjust to the new water temps, while the small fish adjust quicker.
If you find a spot with fish and are catching nothing but short ones, it's probably a good idea to keep moving. If you catch several short fish consecutively, that's probably all that's there. You'll need to cover more ground to find the holes where the larger fish are located. If you catch one big trout, there's usually more there.
The baits of choice this time of year are suspended plugs, jig heads with soft plastics bumped along the bottom, or shrimp on a popping cork. You have to focus on getting the baits deeper in the water to catch the fish. For the suspended plugs, this means a faster retrieval to get the lure to dig deeper in the water.
We have seen some fisherman trolling with plugs as a way to get their baits deeper in the water. This is an effective technique if you find a deep creek (8-10') that allows you to troll along it. Trolling is a great way to cover a lot of water as you try to find larger fish.
The best days to catch fish this time of year are when the weather has been consistent for a few days. Fishing can be tough on days when the temperature drops significantly, because the fish are in a state of shock. But if you can catch a few days where the temperature is somewhat consistent, you should be successful.
This fishing report is brought to you by Captain Jason Witherspoon of Spoon Fed Charters in Keaton Beach, Florida.