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Fishing Florida, winter wading yields hot action in Tampa and Sarasota Bay.

by Guest Writer: Rusty Chinnis

If you’re one of those fishermen who think of wade fishing as a summertime activity, you may be missing the boat. Winter wading can be extremely productive and will often give you an advantage over boat-bound anglers.
When you get out of the boat and in the fish’s domain in the winter, you gain the same advantages you do in the spring, summer or fall. When the water is cold it is often very clear, and the fish can be very wary. Getting in the water allows you to keep a low profile and make a stealthy approach.
When the fish are spooky and hard to see, I employ one of my favorite winter wading techniques, standing still! If you find that the fish see you, just before you see them, try this method. Start by locating an area that is holding your quarry.
Anchor well away from the action, get out of the boat, and stake out a pothole or sand area. By staying a long cast away, you can easily see the fish when they enter a hole or pass across the white sand bottom. Position yourself off to the side in the grass where you’re less visible, keep a low profile and be still. By just waiting them out, you can target reds, trout and snook as they wander the flat. Don’t make any quick moves, and make your casts low and slow. It takes patience, but can be very productive.
If the visibility isn’t great, or you’re fishing early or late, target the edges where grass and sand meet. These sandy areas (the seams) and pot holes are perfect ambush spots for the predators you’re targeting. Start with presentations about two feet outside the sandy area.
Make sure you target the deep grassy ends of the potholes. These areas can be very productive and always warrant a couple of casts. After working the edges of the holes and the seams, begin casting into the sandy areas. When fly fishing, try a clear sink tip line with a relatively (6-8 foot) short leader. The clear tip allows you to fish the far side of a hole without spooking the fish.
Over the last two winters we have been having some excellent success with big trout on cold, low tide mornings. The fish will come into some extremely shallow water to feed, so start shallow and work your way towards the deeper edges. As with other times of the year, stay vigilant for surface action, wakes or feeding birds.
The key to productive and comfortable winter wading is, of course, staying warm. A good pair of waders, wading boots, sweat pants and insulating socks will do the trick. Add a pair of polarized glasses, a hat with a dark under-brim, a wade vest or pack, and you’re in business. Give winter wade fishing a try. It gets you out of the boat, provides some exercise, and some excellent angling opportunities.

Rusty is a local Florida outdoor writer, photographer and contractor on Longboat Key. For more information on Rusty you can visit