Brave the weather and do something outside
The holiday season is over, and I hope everyone had a great time with family and friends. We are now experiencing the type of weather that makes it real easy to say, "Man, it’s cold outside. I think I’ll just stay in and watch TV.”
Bad idea. Watching TV will ruin your eyes and make you fat, or in my case, fatter. You need to get outside, take a walk, ride a bike, climb a tree with a gun, drop a line in a pond or creek, do something to get the blood flowing and ward off the winter doldrums.
At last report the rockfish action at the mouth of the bay had slowed. This does not mean the run is over, just that the fish didn’t bite the last day the wind didn’t blow. And the wind is another problem. It is beyond uncomfortable when you have to hang onto the rail with one hand, the rod and reel with the other hand while being hit in the face with freezing spray. I love a rockfish, but not that much.
Tog fishing was good at last report. The lower bay held some impressive fish as did the inshore wrecks. This fishery also requires reasonable sea conditions in order for the angler to keep a bait in the strike zone.
I did have a report of keeper rockfish caught out of Indian River Inlet on white bucktails with a white worm. It was a steady pick with several shorts caught on the same trip.
Since the ponds have not frozen over, they continue to produce good fishing for bass, pickerel and crappie. This is something that can be done when the ocean and bay are less than hospitable. Live bait is the wintertime standby with shiners and minnows the favorites.
Don’t neglect the tidal creeks. They can be lots of fun and all you need are some bloodworms or nightcrawlers to catch bass, and white and yellow perch. Last winter I had good luck fishing the Broadkill River from the shoreline in the town park. The park has plenty of free parking and one or two other anglers to pass the time of day with between bites.
A tale of two seasons
The spring of 2011 saw an unprecedented run of big rockfish at Indian River Inlet. The fishing lasted for two weeks, and when it was hot everyone there had a limit of two fish over 28 inches. Shorts were rare.
Jump forward to fall 2011. Rockfish were in short supply at the inlet. A few keepers were caught, but on most days it was shorts or nothing at all. The bite at the mouth of the bay was very good during the same period.
The difference was the wind direction. In the spring we had a good amount of east wind that pushed bait into the inlet. This fall and early winter we have had a steady diet of west wind. Most of the wind has been southwest, keeping the air and water temperatures warm and the bait a long way from the inlet and the beach.
Too many anglers think they can go back to the same place they fished a year ago or even a week ago and expect to find the same good action they experienced on the last trip. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. It all depends on the conditions.
Fish are conditioned to move for food and find water temperatures to suit them. When the angler can find bait in the right water temperature, the outlook is good that he will also find the fish he is searching for.
Offshore fishermen have known this for a long time and will spend good money for temperature charts that provide the location of warm or cool water and the breaks between the two. Successful inshore anglers have adapted the same strategy when pursuing their favorite species.
Most SONAR units sold today have temperature readouts as standard equipment. Use this to make sure you are fishing in the right temperature range, then start looking for bait on the screen.
The condition of the water can also provide information on the presence of fish. As a general rule during the summer, cold inshore water will be gray in color and not real clear. The warmer water will be closer to blue and much clearer. In the winter, cold water can be pretty clear, but in the summer it will be gray.
There is much more to successful fishing than going back to the same location where you enjoyed previous success. Every day, every tide, every wind direction and current flow is different, producing a different set of conditions that will reveal where the fish should be. Of course, it is still up to you to find them.