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The 5 Best Fish To Target In Florida

The 5 Best Fish To Target In Florida

Whether you like freshwater or saltwater angling, Florida provides some of the best action in the country for wintertime fishing. Veteran guide Sam Heaton has fished for both freshwater and saltwater species for many winters in Florida. The short cold snaps and mostly mild temperatures of Florida winters makes it the ideal state for catching a variety of fish while waters farther to the north are colder or frozen. Here’s a listing of Heaton’s favorite five freshwater and inshore saltwater fish to catch in Florida during the winter.

Freshwater Fish To Target In Florida

1. Largemouth Bass:

Source: Hooked-in“Florida bass fishing is fantastic in the wintertime,” Heaton says. “It is the best fishing in the country then. The fish are spawning in December and they will spawn all the way through March or April.” The guide recommends watching the moon phases to determine the best time to fish the spawn, which is usually the dark moon. He notes bass can be caught in the wintertime on a variety of lures including topwaters and plastic worms. The best spots to fish are where two or three species of vegetation mix.

2. Crappie:

Source: LakeStateFishing“People don’t really give Florida a fair shake on crappie fishing,” says Heaton, who claims Lake Okeechobee offers great wintertime crappie fishing. “You can fish for suspended crappie in the major rivers and creeks but my favorite way is to fish the vegetation. As the fish move up shallower into the vegetation you catch bigger fish and more fish.” His favorite lure for winter crappie is a plastic tube with a marabou tail that he dips into the cover with his signature series B'n'M Super Sensitive 10-, 11- or 12-foot crappie poles. Fishing around bridges with soft plastic shrimp imitators like the Rage Tail Shrimp also produces crappie for Heaton.

3. Bluegill:

Source: FloridaSportsmanThese sunfish will spawn throughout the winter months in the Sunshine State. “There are just so many of them,” says Heaton who catches bluegill weighing 12 to 16 ounces then. His favorite lures for throwing around bluegill beds are skunk flies, Beetle Spins and small spinners

Saltwater Fish To Target In Florida

4. Redfish:

Source: LostCoastAnglers“The red fishing is great,” Heaton says. “They are a very hardy fish and can hold up in real cold weather.” Redfish congregate along flats in the bays where the fish hold along the mud bottoms where the water is warmer. Heaton likes to sight fish for the reds and tempts the fish with topwater lures, gold Johnson spoons, Rat-L-Traps and soft plastic shrimp imitators.

5. Snook:

Source: SWFloridaSnook“The snook are the prince of the Everglades,” Heaton says. “When the sunshine starts warming up the water they will move back in to the backs of the creeks and around boathouses.” Snook can also be found in the Intracoastal waters of the southern half of the state, especially in inlets with plenty of cover such as mangroves, docks and bridge pilings. Heaton suggests paying close attention to the tides since snook prefer moving water that washes lots of food around. The Florida angler triggers strikes from snook with topwater walking-style baits and any soft plastics that imitate shrimp, crabs or pinfish.

Updated February 8th, 2019 at 4:55 AM CT