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June 2002
Silver Spoons
August 2002
Starting Flats Fishing
September 2002
Beginning Gear - pt. 1
October 2002
Beginning Gear - pt. 2
November 2002
The Courteous Angler
Dec 2002/Jan 2003
Reflections at the
Tide Change
February 2003
Jerkbaits, another look
March 2003
How important is presentation?
April 2003
When to fish...?
May 2003
New ideas
September 2003
Flats Fishing 101 (recap)
December 2003
Another flats fishing year ends
Jan - Feb 2004
New year, new opportunities
March 2004
Flats fishing on any budget
August 2004
Special Request - Hurricane Report
New year, new opportunities
January/February 2004

Still recovering from the holidays but I finally got back to the keyboard to get an article out. Speaking of the holidays I hope all of you got exactly what you wanted or at the least have been able to use or exchange what you did get. I did not snag any new equipment but I did get a couple of trips in before returning to the real world of work. I hope to catch up with the photo archives for the past few months and share those trips.

Of my wanderings around the internet I read about others accounts and I know that there are many who are not fortunate to have year round fishing weather. Some places where the winter weather does not deter the fish it sure makes it uncomfortable for the angler (I have seen the articles about chasing striper up the east coast). I am in the middle so I can only complain half as much.

Still there is great fishing to be had in most of the flats even far north of the still comfortable Florida Keys. Even though the weather seems mild to those above the surface the slight dip still forces some of the regular flats inhabitants to look for warmer climates for a short while anyway. The fish that do hang around may behave differently than in warmer weather and sometimes it is actually a benefit to the flats angler.

Redfish have made a good comeback over the past decade thanks to some good conservation rules and it is rare to find a flat that does not hold some reds whether hogs or slot size. Of course there is no predicting how they will feed or how jumpy they will be. On my recent trip to Tampa Bay my good friend Dave Latimer shuttled me out to one of his favorite flats where we abandon the Polar skiff and wade the long narrow bar.

The weather was chilly and waders were a welcome piece of equipment. I can not stress how great the breathable waders are. I guess I did get some equipment as I purchased a pair of waders after omitting those from my packing. So now I have a pair I leave back 'home' in Florida so I am prepared next time. The great thing is that you can pick up a decent pair of breathable waders for about $100 or less. These are not Gore-Tex™ but they work very well at half the price. I use my breathable waders when it is to cool to wade wet on the trout stream and by adding layers underneath they are warm enough even when the weather does get cold enough for snow in north Georgia.

Back to the reds we found, and there were plenty. In the colder water you can expect these fish to be moving less and looking for warmer or warming water. They are likely to be in larger schools. In many areas the winter water conditions provide more visibility and little or no floating grass. The visibility can be good and bad for the angler. You see the fish, the fish see you. On my outing we could easily see the fish and even though many times pods of nice fish came as close as rod length, they did not spook as much as you would expect. Fish can be unpredictable. No matter how an angler prepares there is always the possibility that the fish will be elusive. The wind was up early so I have no plans of testing my challenged fly casting skills so we were using artificials. As always silver spoon (or 'wobble' lure as I was trying) is a good bet. It should be fished slower in cool weather. It caught a few fish. Also a standard is a jerk bait such as the Mr. Twister Exude. The color of choice is something else as several different colors seemed to work (white as well as a root beer, or baby bream color).

Along with the reds that are usually available, trout, speckled trout are a species available in winter. I had a second trip on the way back to Georgia as I stopped through Jacksonville. Jack Walker and I fished the Guana River reservoir on a blustery day. We put the Hobie kayak pedal system to good use as the open body of water funneled a 10 - 20 mph headwind at us. I used the same outfits I had while wading down in Tampa but we were trolling on the way to what was reported to be a hot spot about two miles up from the dam. Jack was first to score with a nice little trout. He had several others trolling to the hole and also had a couple of slot sized reds. He was using a diving plug that ran about three feet as I recall. With the open water is is hard to say what those fish may have been holding on.

When we got to the hot spot we found a couple of anglers already there tied off to the bank soaking baits. We chatted a bit and decided to head back to the launch. I had fished the little cove on the way over the other boat with no result. This was probably the only protected place on the reservoir and it was great to be out of the wind. The area looked like it should hold fish and I was working the banks thoroughly with an exude, a white exude. There was no action and I wrote it off to my typical luck in Jacksonville. Before heading back I changed to a 'baby bream' colored exude and worked the exact same area not 30 yards from the back of the cove where we pulled over to the bank. That made all the difference as I caught a nice little slot red on my second cast. I had another bump that I missed but it was definitely getting attention. While Jack trolled back down the middle I worked the cuts and structure along the bank as the wind blew us back to the launch. I had a couple of nice trout and several hits I missed.

There will be many more opportunities to come this year. I trust that will be true for all of you. Whether you are braving the cold to fish your local waters, traveling somewhere more comfortable or just getting gear ready for your first good opportunity it is not hard to imagine the pull of the fish right where you are. And that may be the promise of the trip to come.

Get out and fish. Wherever you go, whatever you use make it a point to enjoy yourself.

Let me know what you think.

Good Fishing,

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