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Cold front will make fishing difficult

By ED WALKER
Published October 28, 2006


Heavy winds will most likely make fishing a difficult endeavor this weekend. A passing cold front will bring a host of negative conditions sweeping across the entire Nature Coast area.

The following is a breakdown of what to expect and what not to expect, as the weather gets cranked up.

Offshore

The obvious problem with cold fronts is the wind. Sometime after the frontal boundary passes, a stiff breeze begins to flow from the northwest. This particular direction gives the wind a long fetch of open water that generates large waves and swells.

Not only does this makes navigation unsafe, but it also can make a real mess of the gulf. Big swells not only stir the surface, they can also disrupt the bottom, causing sand and sediment to lift into the water column. When this occurs, the water gets very dirty and may take four or five days to clear up once the winds subside or turn east.

Many species of fish seem to disappear when it gets rough. Perhaps the most important of these are baitfish. Minnows do not like muddy water, and they will move farther offshore to avoid it. Pelagic fish such as kings and Spanish mackerel also prefer clean water, as well as a large food source, so they too move west behind the bait.

There are, however, a few positives to this churning of the offshore waters. Gag grouper, which typically migrate from deep water into the shallows during the fall, are much more likely to move in during foul weather. They do not seem to mind the temporarily murky conditions. This helps kick off the season and gives the fish a chance to congregate around the rocks without constant intrusion from anglers.

Places where grouper are usually overfished, such as large wrecks and reefs, will often produce quality catches for the first anglers to arrive after an extended period of foul weather.

If you are a stone crabber, cold, wind, large waves and dirty water are your best friend. Any commercial trapper will tell you that the crabs "walk" when conditions are at their worst. This often leads to greatly improved catches once the boats return.

Inshore

For the most part, the inshore waters of the Nature Coast do not get that dirty regardless of how hard the wind blows. Good visibility usually returns a day or two after the winds subside.

The problem for flats fishermen is that extreme changes during and after the fronts passage usually scramble the fish around. The sudden drop in temperature and arrival of clear skies cause the fish to be more difficult to coax into biting.

Redfish, trout, snook and just about everything else will not be where they were the week before. This means you have to go "back to the drawing board" to figure out the new patterns of fish movement. For the most part, the fish evacuate the flats and move into deeper holes, rivers and channels.

The bottom line is that flats fishing immediately after a cold front is just plain lousy. It can be disheartening to look over vast areas of prime grassflats that held plenty of fish one day and see no signs of life a few days later.

The same goes for freshwater bass fishing. You can still catch some fish, but you will have to work much harder to do it. By the third day following the fronts, passage temperatures begin stabilize, the fish settle down, and the action picks back up.

Unless you are a true diehard angler, this is shaping up to be a great weekend to watch football or clean out the garage.