I'm often asked if there are any specific conditions or criterion that I look for in picking the perfect fishing day....or do I just head out and use my experience to guide me once I've found a suitable day? My answer is always the same: It's really a combination of BOTH.
Listed below are my TOP 5 "Must Knows" before I ever launch my Carolina Skiff DLV 198 into our abundant Crystal River waters.
5. Day of the Week.
Many of us have no choice but to fish on a weekend when the most boats are on the water and the ramps are crowded. That's fine, but can add greatly to the pressure placed on your targeted fish species, yielding fewer hook-ups in the most popular fishing spots. If you get a chance to fish during the work week, Take It. Not only will the boats ramps be less congested, chances are you'll have the water all to yourself. Every spot you try will have been untouched for at least 24 hours. I LOVE taking clients out during the workweek because I know it's usually gonna yield results. PRO TIP: Use the weekends to try those slightly out-of-the-way spots that you've been meaning to explore. Many times, you'll be rewarded with a monster, and you'll gain the knowledge & confidence to return.
No brainer, right? You may think so, but misreading a weather forecast has cost many an angler (including yours truly) a successful outing. Some weather factors to consider Include: Approaching front? If you can get out ahead of one of these, Do It! The Bite is usually ON FIRE as a cold front approaches and the fish are feeding like crazy with the pressure drop. Day after a front rolls thru? Beware, skunk factor is HIGH on these days and can last up to 2 days after the front leaves. Your BEST fishing spot can suddenly become a wasteland overnight. PRO TIP: Best to ALWAYS check the 7 day forecast and pick a day AHEAD of a major front coming through. The bite should be aggressive. Large air temperature drops within a short time frame can also affect feeding activity. Be mindful of these especially as they happen overnight. Many inshore species (especially trout) will develop a serious case of lockjaw when the air temp is significant enough to start affecting water temp. Lastly, get a good radar app for your phone in addition to your on-board electronics. This can literally be a LIFE SAVER in certain situations. Check it frequently.
3. Water Temperature.
As stated above, has a massive air temperature change affected the water temp in the past 24 hours? If so, you may want to wait a few days to allow the fish to acclimate. This trick has served me well over the years. Also, are you planning on fishing during the hottest months of the year? Don’t expect the level of activity that you see during the Fall and Spring. The Bite tends to slow WAY down during the hottest hours of the day, regardless of any other factors. PRO TIP: Along our Nature Coast, the “Goldilocks Zone” of water temperature falls within the 68 to 80 degree range. Plan your inshore trips during the months that hold these temps!
2. Sea Conditions.
ALWAYS check via the NOAA website on the days leading up to your planned trip. Specifically, you are looking for wave heights that are within your comfort level for an enjoyable and productive fishing trip. If predicted wave heights are above 2ft and a MODERATE CHOP, I’m thinking really hard about whether or not I want to get beat up that day. Luckily, most days off Crystal River and Homosassa fall within the LIGHT CHOP to SMOOTH range with very manageable wave heights. NOAA does a great job in predicting conditions out there through a system of transmitting buoys and instruments. Trust the science.
I NEED to know when the fish are most likely to be feeding. The NUMBER ONE predictor of this activity are tides. Specifically, and incoming and outgoing tide. There are tons of apps (both free and for purchase) out there to help you in this endeavor; I like using Tide Chart USA Free by hanitaro for its simplicity and specific spots around Crystal River and Ozello. It’s never steered me wrong. Get out there a few hours before and after high tide and you will begin to see why watching the tide cycles are so important. PRO TIP: PLAN your trip around a favorable (large variance) tide cycle! They usually last a couple days when the fishing is tremendous! Also, unlike weather, tide cycles can be predicted YEARS in advance. Use these in planning your trips!
Its my sincere hope that you found this info useful. If I can help you with any of your fishing needs, just shoot me a text or give me a shout at (352) 697-2874. Today marks the first day of Snook Season along our Nature Coast, I still have plenty of September dates available to get you on the Big Ones!! Visit me on my booking page and let’s get on the action!
Tight lines and empty bait wells!
Captain Bryan Frechette,
Fish Hunter Tours
Crystal River, FL, USA