As this year progresses, it has become clear we are having the first cold (OK Florida cold) winter in quite a while. Like most Floridians, I try to stay indoors when the temperature dips below 50 but sometimes the fish just call me.
That happened recently when I met Larry Wright at the High Bridge boat ramp on an uncommonly cold morning. When I left my home that morning in the pre-dawn, I was surprised to find the windshield of my Ford SUV iced over. What?! Yep, iced over. Naw, can't happen in Central Florida but it was true. With the heater blowing I managed to get it clear without actually having to do any scraping, but it was still a disconcerting way to begin a fishing trip.
At High Bridge, I met Larry who told me he had been wondering if I might cancel because of the cold. Now I must tell you he is a professional heating and air conditioning guy down from Northern Ohio and knows about cold. If this fellow thinks it may be too cold to fish, then I have to consider his expert opinion. As I fiddled about the boat, I kicked around returning to the warm confines of my little beachside cottage. Flipping a mental coin, I decided to forge ahead.
My little 50 h.p. Evinrude let me know it was a bad plan by sputtering for a while before agreeing to push the boat. At first stop, we only managed to make a few useless casts while wiping at our cold noses. The reason for my hard headedness was spotted sea trout.
Following a pattern I learned of back in the '70s, I was certain big trout would be trying to avoid the chilly water by moving into the deeper holes. Fishing for reds on the flats can be tough in 56-degree water, so I had put that thought out of my mind. If that had been my plan, I would have pushed for an 11 a.m. start. Wintertime flats fishing gets much better under the overhead sun when the big fish move into the thin water to take advantage of a couple of degrees warm-up.
No, if I was to put Larry and I on fish, it would have to be deep water trout. With the tide nearing the end of the outgoing pattern, I motored onto a deep spot that has provided me with lots of winter fun down through the years.
As every one of you knows, the best defense from the cold is biting fish.
As soon as we began flipping my chartreuse jig, the trout began to hit. Not strong but enough to let us know they were there. Soon I landed a nice keeper then soon after Larry did the same. Ha! Now we were fishing. What cold? Armed with the knowledge there were trout in the hole, we began experimenting with different kinds of baits. I even landed one on a brown bass worm. Larry picked up one on a Grandslam Lite Beer shrimp tail he had sweetened with a piece of natural shrimp.
By then it was about 10 a.m. and we began shedding jackets. The sun was bright and there was no wind at all. As we shucked the top layer of clothing, Larry and I looked at each other with a knowing nod. Not a bad day to fish after all.
The only thing that could stop our fun was the inevitable tide turn. With the slack tide we baited dead shrimp to try for black drum.
That was not happening, so we turned our attention to our common love of old cars. We spoke of cars from our past and hopefully cars in our future. After a half-hour or so of that, the tide began to run in strong.
Now the trout bite returned. At one point I even landed a rat red to release. That single red would be the only interloper on the feeding trout that were giving us a lot of fun. Now feeling pretty comfortable, we lingered long after the bite had ended. We said goodbye about 1 p. m. and Larry seemed happy to take the seven nice keepers home to his bride, Mary.
All in all a pretty good day. As we work our way through the winter, don't be shy about venturing out. Some of my best trout days have been the coldest.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.