Wind, Waves, Warm Water

 Winter fishing takes a turn when temperatures are high and winds are blowing the “wrong” way.

Last week I talked about fishing on the flats when the weather is much warmer than it should be for this time of year. I talked about giving the fish time to warm up and how they have a window in which they will eat each day, conserving as much energy as possible the rest of the day.

Fishing offshore has its own set of differences when it comes to balmy December and January weather. You have to understand that the pelagic species we chase offshore go through their own set of changes when the heater’s on, instead of the air conditioner.

 Whether you’re targeting sailfish, wahoo, kingfish or dolphin, those fish are used to having the wind out of the north this time of year, with rough conditions in the Gulf Stream. They like the choppy waves and high seas and chillier temperatures.

In winter months when the winds switch around to the southeast, like they have for much of this winter, they have a tendency to smooth off the seas because the current is going in the same direction. It makes it quite calm out there––and warmer than normal, as well.

There are days when you might have 15 mph winds, but they’re in the same direction as the current, so you just lose the roughness. When you have cool northeasterly winds, you are going to have a current change, as well as a temperature change. That’s what is going to fire up species like sailfish.

Sailfish like swimming down big swells and waves. They can find bait swimming in the upper part of the water column and it allows them to warm up as well. Warm waters coming off reefs coupled with a wind out of the southwest, west or northwest, will blow ballyhoo off the reef. You will be able to find a lot of fish in the 90- to 100-foot depths as they take advantage of the bait blown from safety.

It was not uncommon last year when I was fishing with Capt. Ray Rosher on the sailfish circuits to catch fish in 90 feet of water. We even had some tournaments where we caught fish in 60 feet, just off the beaches in Miami.

Fish this time of year are being affected by water temperatures, the sewage outflow that creates warmth off of Government Cut and the warmth of water coming off of the banks, across the reef and dropping into deeper water.

When the wind is southeast, it has tendency to be warm and high in humidity. That is going to cause your dolphin, wahoo and kingfish bite to drop off. So, as uncomfortable as it is sometimes to fish in the northeast winds and choppy seas, that is the best time to target winter pelagics. If, however, the breezes are from the southwest or southeast, you might do well to look around the shallower depths and reefs to see if bait is being blown into the open.

Tight Lines and Good Fishing,
Captain Rick Murphy