Winter weather can be great for ocean excursions
Regardless of the temperature, a good winter fishing forecast should always end with light and variable winds for offshore and nearshore fishermen. In calm seas, anglers with 18- to 30-foot vessels can have a rip-reeling time 5 or 40 miles off the beach. The fun is often filled with epic bottom-fishing opportunities for sheepshead and lunker black sea bass.
Adam Goodwin of Tide Chaser Fishing Charters regularly schedules ocean excursions for his clients in the Murrells Inlet, S.C., area throughout the winter.
“The sheepshead and black sea bass are very plentiful on structure,” said Goodwin (843-457-0778). “We are catching plenty of both. But the big black sea bass are thick right now.”
Mild, winter conditions continue to moderate ocean temperatures. This keeps nearshore structures fully stocked with fish.
“The water temperatures are not too cold for the fish to go away. And we are catching them about as fast as we can drop down baits,” said Goodwin. He fishes a wide variety of places, from some of his favorite ledges only 5 miles off the beach to other structures over 40 miles offshore.
“The fish are holding on structure in a wide variety of water depths. But the structure is the key, and some structures will hold more fish than others,” he said.
Stay on the move until you find feeding fish
Goodwin plans his trips to hit a few of his favorite spots and he will fish both sides of the structure to see where the fish are holding. If they aren’t biting at one place, he will pick up and move to deeper or shallower water until he finds them congregated.
Mostly, these structures are holding large schools of sheepshead and black sea bass. Goodwin said black sea bass are larger this year than in years past.
“The size limit for black sea bass is 14 inches, and we are catching three and four-man limits on many of our trips,” he said. “Black sea bass give a good fight and are fantastic fish to eat.”
Cut bait on double-drop rigs is his choice for black sea bass. But he uses fiddler crabs on jigheads if he wants to target sheepshead.
“The sheepshead shift to the reefs and ledges in winter and feast on the barnacles adhered to the structure. When you drop a live fiddler crab to them, they just go crazy for it,” he said.
Goodwin prefers a 1/2-ounce jighead for sheepshead, but will use as heavy as a 1 ½-ounce jighead if the current is strong.
“You don’t want it to just sit on the bottom. Instead, you want it to flutter around a foot or two off the bottom. But when you drop into an area abundant with sheepshead or a big school of black sea bass, the fiddler crab will not stay down long without getting eaten by something,” he said.