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Late Winter Kayak Fishing

with Alex Gorichky

kayak fishing in winter

Conditions can be especially tough for kayak anglers this time of year, but it’s still very possible to find some success on the water.

Tough Sledding in February and March

As an angler, it can be easy here on the Space Coast to dislike the month of February; and this is even more true for kayak anglers in our area. Continuous cold fronts and associated winds seem unrelenting and those “nice” days tend to always fall during the week leaving not much for the weekend warriors. Unfortunately, March tends to follow much of the same trend with late season fronts and a typical windy forecast. Lagoon waters are the lowest and coldest of the year and that can make for some challenging conditions.

With that being said, catching this time of year is not impossible, by any means. Adjusting your tactics a bit and keeping a few things in mind will help you succeed in your quest to put some fish in the boat.

Break Out the Bait

First and foremost, you want to have some meat to stay on the meat. That means looking to natural baits for success. We all love to get those hits on artificial and they work well all throughout the year, but when the temperature drops and fish get lethargic, break out the bait to get the bites. Cut bait like mullet, crab, or ladyfish all work great to soak in an area where you know redfish, drum and trout are present, but unwilling to chase your more mobile offerings. Same goes for shrimp — either live or fresh dead. I will rarely leave the dock on a kayak or boat charter this time of year without a little bite of bait to ensure action on those otherwise slow outings.

kayak fishing for redfish

Don’t leave shore without a chunk of live bait.

Get The Timing Right

Timing can be everything for us when fishing the shallow waters and your typical early morning summer bite is not the best choice until the warmth returns. Many times, in the cooler months we wont even start until 9am with the best fishing reserved for the noonish till dark hours. This gives the water a chance to warm under the sun and the fish to become a bit more active. Keeping in mind that many fish will hide in deeper waters over the cool nights and head to the shallows as they warm up. Look to fish in areas with a mix of deeper holes or canals with shallow water adjacent and add in some mud bottom for good measure. These few things will hopefully up your chances even when the cold and wind beat you down a bit.

One thing you may have noticed is a complete lack of talk about beach launching and near-coastal kayak fishing in this month and the next few. There is a very solid reason for that and it is why I don’t book those types of trips until the April/May timeframe. Of course, you could get a lucky day and maybe pluck a tripletail off the Canaveral Buoy line or even have a blast with some beach blues or Spanish Macks on those rare launchable days. However, those dreams of man size tarpon, big kings, or a swing at some cobia are just that, dreams.

It’s Never Too Early for Prepping

Preparation is the key to success when you’re dealing with large fish and small plastic boats. That preparation should start months before the season and not the night before. Take these “off” months to get ready for the coming flat seas, prevalent bait, and happy predators. Fresh line, reel maintenance, and kayak prep will all pay in spades when the time comes to do battle. Be sure to also check your safety gear, especially the Co2 charge for those inflatable life jackets.

kayak fishing for tarpon on the beach

The time to prepare for summer’s big game fishing on the beach is NOW!

Reconnaissance is Key

Of course, there will come a time when you feel you’ve done your prep and the time to launch is still weeks away at best. This is a perfect time for a little reconnaissance. Hop in your vehicle and start searching out some suitable beach launch spots. It always pays to have a few good ones up and down Brevard beaches. When reports come of Kingfish off Melbourne Beach, you do not want to have to search out a spot the morning of. Have some for the south, mid, and north parts of the county that will be adequate. The best launches will have ample parking/trailer parking, relatively short walk/pull to make it to the water, and crossovers with few or no stairs. In the morning when your adrenaline is maxed out and the day seems fresh that long walk or load of stairs wont matter much, but put that hike or stair climb at the end of a long hot summer day and it could be the death of you — or at least feel like it.

I spend an insane amount of time on Brevard’s waterways inshore, offshore, and everything in between. Growing up here has allowed me to get an intimate feel for all of our great fisheries. Without a doubt, one of my favorite is the challenge of besting giant tarpon from kayaks launched off the sand. There is an intense feeling of accomplishment for all involved, and it accounts for some of my most fulfilling days as a guide. So, don’t let those winter doldrums get you down. Grab some bait and make your action or prep up for the coming fun.