Warm weather destinations for wintertime fishing

The next few months are long ones in the Midwest. Sure, we find outdoor related activities to keep us busy, like attending sport shows and slipping out for a little fishing on a nice day, but we are not living the quality angling life of those in the Gulf Coast states. Escaping to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, or Texas each winter for some sunshine and fishing is a real treat. Here are three suggestions for wintertime destination fishing trips. 

Louisiana Redfish 

Redfish will ruin you. They fight like smallmouth but can weigh over 30 pounds. Fighting “reds” in the shallows – where they associate with structure, like points, weed beds, pilings and riprap – is an intense experience. Like bass fishing, you target likely looking spots throwing Rat-L-Traps, soft plastics and spinner baits, but when a red slams it you’ll swear your hooked to the end of a runaway train.

Once you have experienced redfish in the marsh, it’s tough to imagine not going back every year. The sunrise boat rides flying through narrow passages, the camaraderie among anglers, the Cajun culture, and the sound of a screaming drag as a redfish rips line while you do your best to weather the storm. These are just a few of the reasons why a redfish trip to Venice, Louisiana is a great idea.

Venice Marina is the heart of the local fishing community. Located literally at the end of the road, this is as far south as you can drive in the marsh. Venice Marina is the boat ramp, bait shop, restaurant, fish processing, meeting place where captains connect with clients. It’s where the adventure begins. Camps, houseboats and some more permanent structures, surround the Marina. Silent shrimp boats fill slips, while 30-foot center counsels shuttle anglers toward adventure and bass boats head into the marsh.

Florida’s Lake Okeechobee Largemouth 

Lake Okeechobee is known for its fishing. That’s the draw. Anglers chase lunker largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill. The town itself is rather small, but big enough for a Walmart and flea market. It’s an entirely different world than the Florida most people recognize. It’s the part of the state I’m most attracted to. It’s country. Plus, you can be to the beach on the Atlantic side in less than one hour, and to the Gulf of Mexico in an hour and a half. 

The cost of living is affordable for an average person, and so is vacationing there. The bass and crappie are the draw, but there are a lot of hunting opportunities too. The area has hunting for waterfowl, deer, Osceola turkey, feral hogs and alligators. So, a cast and blast is an option. 

I love bobber fishing. I admit it. No shame here. Okeechobee is where you can float a shiner under a big bobber and realistically hope to catch a largemouth bass over 10 pounds. It’s not likely, but it does happen. It’s nothing to catch 5, 6, and 7 pounders. Crappie fishing is excellent. With nothing more than a cane pole and bucket of minnows, you can fill a cooler with slabs, then enjoy an evening fish fry while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. 

South Padre Speckled Trout 

If you enjoy seafood and gorgeous stretches of Gulf Coast beach along with fishing, you need to check out South Padre Island at the southern tip of Texas. As an angler, you come to Laguna Madre for the legitimate chance to catch a trophy-sized speckled trout. The bay has big numbers of trout, and a healthy population of redfish, too. You’ll find the island atmosphere packages this special place into a vibrant sporting destination. 

The Laguna Madre, Spanish for “Mother Lagoon”, is one of six known hypersaline lagoons on the planet. Meaning, it is saltier than most seawater. Creating a unique ecosystem for fish, animals, and plants. There is abundant seagrass in the lagoon. It’s very shallow, with an average depth of approximately 3 feet. In total, the lagoon stretches 275 miles from Corpus Christi to La Pesca, Mexico. It’s connected to the ocean by only two inlets. 

Don’t haul your bass boat down to the lagoon thinking you can run anywhere and do this yourself. You’ll quickly find out most of the water is too shallow for traditional boats.  Throwing popping corks with jigs, spoons and topwater plugs will put fishing the boat. A lot of people use shrimp as bait. 

Laguna Madre is another great destination for a cast-and-blast. The lagoon is the wintering range for approximately 77 percent of North American redhead ducks, according to the National Park Service. Many more waterfowl species take up winter residence in Laguna Madre, including a healthy population of pintails.

See you down the trail…
Brandon Butler
bbutler@driftwoodoutdoors.com

Pic: Steve Brigman and Brandon Butler with wintertime redfish from Laguna Madre. 

For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast HERE or anywhere podcasts are streamed. 

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