December Thru February - Fishing Report & Newsletter by Pete Schulz at Fishing Headquarters
Welcome to our quarterly newsletter. This newsletter will give you the heads up to upcoming fishing events and seminars in the Jupiter area. Also fishing forecasts tips and tackle suggestions and tournament schedules.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and we welcome you comments and suggestions. --Pete Schulz
December, January and February:
As Thanksgiving approached we started to see an increase in Spanish mackerel. With each passing cold front we will continue to see more and more mackerel along the beaches and pier also pompano will show up in large numbers. Anywhere from palm beach inlet to Stuart inlet, from 10 feet to 30 feet of water is a good place to start. Look for birds and or color changes in the water. To locate Spanish slow troll Clark spoons size 1 or 2, or Gotcha plugs with wire leader 75 to 100 feet behind your boat. If you are fishing from the beach, you are looking for the same, birds, color and fish breaking or jumping out of the water. Don’t be afraid to keep walking up and down the beach as these fish are always on the move. From the beach, Gotcha’s Hopkins spoons, Krocodile spoons and Gulfstream Flash Minnows are what you want to be throwing this time of year.
Farther offshore the annual Sailfish migration is getting underway. Northwest to northeast winds are best, as each cold front passes through the southerly movement of bait helps move the sailfish through our area and further south.
To find sailfish, look for the bait. In January, sailfish can be seen balling bait. On a northwest wind look for the bait in 30 to 100 feet of water and the sailfish can be be anywhere from 50 feet to 300 feet of water. On north or northeast wind the sailfish can be anywhere from 80 to 150 feet of water.
Sailfish are moving south so when you mark bait it is usually best to go to the north end of the bait and work your way south through the area, then go back and do it again. Sailfish like to ride the waves and tail down sea. When the wind is northeast and east, look for Dolphin to show in the same area, usually on the edge of the drop off 110 to 130.
January is the best month for sail in our area, also when the best tournaments are held. The West Palm Beach Fishing Club’s Silver Sailfish Derby was the most successful tournament last year. 50 boats caught 958 sails in 3 days. This year we are looking forward to January 1 through the 20th, and with the right conditions I think this will be the best of the bite for the tournament guys. But don’t worry if you can’t fish during that time, the sailfish are here through March.
Circle hooks will be required in most tournaments this season, including dead-bait trolling tournaments on the Treasure Coast, as organizers prepare teams to comply with a new National Marine Fisheries rule that takes effect Jan. 1. Intended to improve the survival rate of released billfish, the rule requires the use of non-offset circle hooks in tournaments in which natural baits, live or dead, and natural bait/lure combinations are used.
The transition is expected to be difficult for Treasure Coast teams who fish with trolled, dead bait because fewer of those teams have used circle hooks in the past. Many of the live-bait tournaments from Palm Beach County to the Florida Keys have already made circle hooks mandatory.
If Bottom Fish is what you’re looking for December 15 starts the grouper migration in our area. Muttons and yellowtails are caught on the inshore reefs from 65 to 110 feet of water, and small king mackerel (or kingfish as we call them here) are plentiful in late December and January. Red groupers start it off with most of them being too short by an inch or two. But with each passing cold front groupers, like kings and sailfish migrate south for the winter. Gag or gray groupers migrate from as far away as the Carolina’s to spawn off of our coast in the warm waters of the gulfstream. From Fort Pierce to Palm Beach on any inshore rock, from 30 to 70 feet of water Groupers gather in small schools. Live baits are the best way to get more than one grouper. Medium to large mullet, goggle eye’s, blue runners and greenies make excellent bait for these 10 to 14 pound fish.
If it is too rough to go offshore and you still want to go, or flats fishing is want you want to do, try fishing in the Loxahatchee River. Winter time fishing in the Loxahatchee is loads of fun for the light tackle enthusiast. To catch a variety of fish from 1 to 5 pound Jacks, 1 to 3 pound Ladyfish, 18 to 26 inch Snook and maybe a Redfish, try drifting live shrimp on a Hank Browns Hookup Jig or a Calcutta Lead Head Jig. I like to use a Penn 260 Slammer on a Penn II612S70 6 to 12 pound rod with 8 pound test ANDE Back Country line and a piece of HI-SEAS 20 pound Fluorocarbon invisible leader. Drifting in both the Intracoastal Waterway or the Loxahatchee River in 6 to 10 feet of water is best. If you like throwing jerk baits or jigs, try D.O.A. CAL’s in rootbeer or gold glitter, Gulfstream’s ¼ oz redfish jig or1/4 oz pink flats jig or Doc’s Goofy Jig.
Spanish Mackerel fishing along the beach is spectacular in the winter months. From Thanksgiving until the end of March, from Stuart to Palm Beach these 3 to 8 pound fish are great fighters. Over the past five years Spanish mackerel have held up in the hole off Peck Lake, just south of Stuart Inlet. This 30’ hole between two reefs is the winter home to a commercial fleet of about 100 boats. On weekends with both recreational boats and commercial fishing in this area you can see 200 to 300 boats at any one time trying to get there limit. This is a great fishery for family’s wanting non stop action and some nice table fare. Number 1 and 2 Clark spoons with red or green beads on them work the best. Trolling works best to locate them and once you have fond them, try drifting and casting Gulfstream ¼ oz or ½ oz flash minnows. American single strand wire #3 or American Micro Supreme tie table wire in 20 # or 26# is a must when mackerel fishing.
If Pompano is your choice November thru February is a great time for you to catch an excellent eating fish. The fall migration passes right through our area, from Sabastian in the north to Boca in the south, Pompano can be caught somewhere on the beach. 12 to 15 foot surf rods with 15 to 20 pound line is the standard. Cast a 2 or 3 hook rig out with a sandflea (a type of crab) or a piece of fresh shrimp into the surf and maybe you will catch two or more at once. Jig fishing is also alot of fun, with a 7 foot rod and 12 to 15 pound test and a Doc’s Goofy Jig or a Gulfstream Redfish or Pompano jig try walking the beach and casting out about 50 feet working the jig back to the beach making it hop off the bottom.
Inshore fishing from a boat on day’s when you can’t get outside is always another option.
If you have any questions about fishing in our area feel free to call us at 561-743-7335 and when you come in be sure and tell us if you read this report.
Schulz Brothers Fishing Headquarters
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