Tired of shoveling snow? Burned out after driving on the ice? Sick of solid water? Escape to one of these winter getaways. Togs on the Virginia rocks, sails on the open Atlantic and striped bass along the New England coast. Grab a kayak, hot winter fishing is closer than you think.
Hot Winter Fishing in the Cold Months
For mid-Atlantic anglers, tog fishing offers a break from the cold, dark winter. “These feisty brawlers patrol the rocks, wrecks and reefs from New England to Virginia,” Ocean Kayak pro LEE WILLIAMS (shown above) says.
Wrap up in a full drysuit and layers of warm clothes, tog fishing can require hours waiting for the bite. “When the fish turn-on, you’ll be stripping off layers,” Williams laughs.
Rig up with a single hook dropper built from 50-pound monofilament, a four- to eight-ounce bank sinker and 3/0 baitholder hook. Tog bite soft and move fast, hold your rod tight and lightly pinch the line to feel any bite. “To get the bite, you need the right bait,” says Williams.
In early fall and late spring, whole fiddler crabs are winner. In the dead of winter, Williams says anglers go with blue crab chunks, halved green crabs or a booger of clam gobed on the hook. Medium-heavy tackle and 50-pound braid will pull these fighters out of the rubble—if you’re lucky.
South Florida Sailfish
Although sailfish can be caught year round in South Florida, Johnson Outdoors pro Robwil Valderrey loves to chase them from December to February when the fish school up in warm water eddies.
He launches from Pompano Beach then paddles one to two miles to the Gulf Stream. Valderrey uses a live google eye or blue runner rigged on 5/0 to 7/0 hook with a 40- to 60-pound fluorocarbon leader and 30-pound braided line. He trolls the baits in a zig-zag pattern or drifts with the current. “Adjust the depth of the baits to match bait marks on the fishfinder,” he suggests, “that can be from 20 to 200 feet deep.”
South Florida stays warm through winter, but the wind and waves make for a wet ride; Valderrey wears in a breathable rain jacket and paddling pants to stay dry.
New England Striped Bass
Even in the frozen north, anglers can find liquid water on the coast. New England Hobie pro Eric Harrison bundles up in a dry suit to target hold-over striped bass through the winter.
“I use my fish finder to locate schools of striper in the rivers where saltwater meets fresh,” he says. Winter striped bass are slow and lethargic so Harrison will match his retrieve to the mood. Using a seven-inch Jiggn’ Hogy on a half-ounce jighead, Harrison slow bounces along the bottom or casts to bridge and dock pilings. “If the fish are not responding, I’ll deadstick the jig,” he adds.
Harrison says that the best days for fishing are calm and above freezing. “The biggest fish will bite on brutally cold nights,” he advises.
For mid-Atlantic kayak anglers, tog fishing offers a break from the cold, dark winter. | Feature photo: Rob Choi