Christmas is this week, but it has felt more like springtime on the water with afternoon temperatures in the mid-80s. As a result, good fishing is still available on the flats, and some of the best fishing is during the extremely low tides around the new and full moon.
Negative low tides are tides that are below 0.0 on a tide chart. On Sunday, the tide will be -0.1 to -0.2 somewhere between 8:30 and 10 a.m., depending on where you are around Bradenton. The southern wind may hold the tide up a bit higher.
These low tides are great for discovering new holes, which tend to concentrate game fish. Redfish, trout, flounder, snook and more are forced off the shallows and into potholes or channel edges, making it easier to target them when you only have to work small areas.
Anglers like Captain Jeremy Lee take advantage of negative tides, knowing that hungry fish can't travel far on the low tides. "These tides concentrate redfish and trout in the numerous areas that have spotted deeper potholes throughout our expansive flats," said Lee, who also fishes tournaments for redfish. "These edges are typically around 2 to 3 feet deeper than the shallow water on the flat."
Fishing negative tides can be done with or without a boat. In fact, the best tactics can be wading to holes or edges of the flat from land. Areas like Palma Sola Bay, the Manatee Causeway Bridge or around Terra Ceia all have access to the water from public parking areas.
Lee has capitalized on these negative low tides recently, catching 15 redfish to 9 pounds and numerous 15- to 2- inch trout fishing a single hole in Palma Sola Bay. "We fished the day before a cold front pushed through the area. Low pressure and wind can be a great combination," he said.
"By far the best bait for fishing potholes and deeper edges is a soft plastic on a jig head. I prefer a quarter-ounce chartreuse jig head rigged with a Z-Man 'minnows' in Houdini color or Mirrolure 'Lil Jon' in golden bream or watermelon red glitter. As the tide comes in and the flats start to flood, it's hard to beat a Z-Man Paddlerz or a good old Johnson gold spoon in quarter-ounce."
Fish will be more aggressive with warmer temperatures, but even in the cold can be caught. The key is to fish your bait for different weather situations. Lee suggests working soft plastics on the bottom. "While working a soft plastic rigged on a jig head, the bottom of these holes is the key factor in getting the bite. On colder days, slow that bait down and drag it through these holes and parallel down the deeper edges of the flats. Adding some scent to your baits is also a good idea."
Capt. Lee can be reached at 941-993-3977 or through his website, CaptainJeremyLee.com.