NE Florida February Surf Fishing
NE Florida February Surf Fishing
loop-single-reply.phpFebruary 2, 2023 at 10:03 pm
This winter in northeast Florida has been unpredictable, to say the least. One day it’s in the 30s in the morning, and a few days later we are topping of temps in the 80s! Captain Mike Vickers Jr., the owner of Hammock Bait and Tackle, tells us that surf fishing this time of year can be extremely productive, especially for whiting and pompano, if the weather cooperates.
Some people I know head inshore for the winter as it cools down, but if you’re like me, you stay on the beach as long as possible. So for those of you who still want to fish the surf in the winter months, here are some tips and strategies for February.
In my last few reports talked about Diet Pepsi shrimp, and further north they have started using them. It won’t be very productive for you until the water temperature drops to 58 degrees or colder. I tried using them once this season and only caught one bluefish with it because the water was still too warm.
Speaking of bluefish, they are getting bigger on average; they grow about an inch per week. Last week they were between 10-11 inches long so I’m expecting the average to be keeper size within a few weeks. Throw some fresh cut mullet or whiting to attract those toothy fellas! Make sure to use a bit thicker line if you are targeting bluefish. I switch to rigs made with 40# mono so they can’t cut right through the line.
Check the beach when you get out there for coquina shells and if you are seeing a lot of broken shells, you’ll know the fish are feeding on the clams, so try some clam flavor Fishbites as well as the shrimp for a dynamic duo of flavor they can’t resist! Fresh dead ship has been my go-to for bait other than Fishbites. I pinch off the tail and heads, leaving all the legs (whiting candy) and thread them on the hook, breaking them in half if they are too large to fit on the hook.
Capt. Mike has a lot of great tips for bait in colder water months. He says, “With the recent storms we have lost a great deal of our natural bait for these fish, such as sand fleas (mole crabs). However, there are other baits that can be used that have proven to be just as successful when targeting pompano and whiting without sand fleas. I like using strips of clams secured to the hook with miracle thread. You can also make up clam pouches using spawn netting and miracle thread. As always, shrimp will also produce. I take a bag of fresh dead (recently deceased) shrimp along with me.”
Weather and Water Temps
With all the up and down weather, our surf water temperatures have not been very consistent, and they haven’t dropped as quickly as they did in years past. I was fishing with my Fishin’ Girls less than a week ago in Ormond by the Sea and the water was till 67 degrees. As of today, temps are at 61 in Jacksonville, 63 on Crescent Beach, and 65 in Ormond Beach. People are still catching big pompano here, which seems unusual for the end of January.
Those water temperatures will tell you what types of fish you can expect to be running the beach, which in turn will show you what types of rigs and baits to use to target those fish. You don’t want to be trying to target fish that aren’t even around and waste your valuable time—the only currency you can never get back! When I first started surf fishing I watched videos and then went out to the beach to catch certain fish without realizing that they weren’t even anywhere near our beaches that time of year. Take some time to study fish and their migration and feeding habits, and that will help you a lot as you prepare for your fishing trips.
If we get another temperature drop, make sure to dress appropriately and have many layers on when you get to the beach. You can always take a layer off if it’s warmer or not as windy as you expect it to be. And you don’t want to cut your fishing trip short because you’re too cold!
Throughout February some of these fish will continue to get bigger and bigger. Last year I was catching 17-inch whiting at the start of March, so we can expect to see averages of 14-16 inch whiting or bigger in February. I remember catching one of those larger whiting on a stormy day with huge waves. So don’t think you have to stay away if it looks like a bad surf day. If the water clarity is moderate to clean, go for it!
Here’s a tip for how to easily identify the runouts at a high-impact beach. When you’re coming out to the beach, look for areas where there are “hills and valleys” on the shoreline. The “valleys” are where those runouts are, and where those predator fish are sitting on the edges, waiting for their prey to get swept across their pathway. Another way to find it is to look for the line whitewash that goes all the way out from the shore to the first sandbar and beyond. When I was fishing last week, I started throwing my bait right along the edge of that whitewash line, and I almost immediately start catching bigger whiting feeding there.
Another important strategy is very simple but sometimes hard to make the decision to do. If you’re not catching after a while…move! Even 50 yards can make the difference between being skunked or having an amazing day. The spot you’re in might not have the structure where the fish are holding. I know we bring everything but the kitchen sink with us in our carts, so it can be a big task to move, but it is usually worth it!
One last thing. We will be at several large festivals all over Florida through the end of April getting the word out about our women’s fishing community, teaching kids and adults how to cast, and making our new branded Fishin’ Girl products available. The main towns are Melbourne, Live Oak, Green Cove Springs, Palm Coast, Lake Helen, Port St. Lucie, and Orange City. You can find all the dates and locations on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FishinGirlFlorida. If you are near one of the towns we will be visiting, please come out and say hello!
I hope this has been helpful. Thanks for reading it! Tight lines!
Cathy Sanders is the founder of Fishin' Girl, LLC and is dedicated to gathering women who love fishing and want to enjoy it together. Call to book a trip, or visit Fishin' Girl on the web.
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