Wintertime creek fishing tactics

Reflecting on my last two fishing trips, I think they represent the best tactics for fishing the creeks in the upper reaches of our rivers this time of year.  Maybe some of what we experienced will help you improve your results.  In general, the trout and redfish will be schooled up this time of year.  When you find them, the catching can be great.  When you don’t actively search for them, you can easily get skunked.

Reds will often be schooled tight to heavy structure in deeper water.  They can be clustered in a spot no more than 15 x 15 ft.  Cast in there, fish on.  Cast away from it, nothing.  Often I have wondered what it must look like under water because its very possible to pull 30+ fish out of the same hole.  That’s a dense pack of fish!  They will often be tight to gnarly stuff, so be prepared to lose some rigs getting your bait into the strike zone.

Trout will also be schooled up, but not always tight to structure.  True to their “tide-runner” nickname, they will move about.  You will catch 3 or 4 then it will stop.  Often if you drift a bit you will come back to the school and catch a few more.

New Years Day I took my good friend Ray (BOSN on out for a much needed day of fishing.  We hit a few of our favorite cold water spots and at first did not find the fish where we were expecting.  But we made some fan-casts around the area and found the fish much deeper than expected, in 15-20 ft of water.  A very slow presentation worked.  We caught about 10 fish out of this spot and then it shut off completely.  We moved around a lot.  In our efforts to find the fish I decided to try a shortcut to the back of a creek.  It’s a pretty skinny creek but the Whaler floats in a puddle.  So, I put the screws to it and ran high speed through the marsh.  We rounded a corner and my lower unit started bumping bottom.  Going 30 mph, by the time I stopped we were 200 yards in.  In 5 inches of water, tide still going out!   No worries, I pulled up the motor and Ray went to back and I went to the front.  I didn’t even have room to turn the boat around.  Huffing and puffing, I poled us out to deeper water and narrowly avoided a long wait in the marsh grass.  Funny stuff! 🙂


We made our way to a creek and started pitching to lay down trees and other structure.  I made a pitch and got a hard strike.  It was a 28″ redfish.  We spun around and held in the current with the trolling motor and proceeded to land about 15 more nice size reds in this one spot.  We ended the day with around 30 reds, with the vast majority coming from only 2 very small areas.

Ray with a pumpkin
This one went 28″

Yesterday I fished with Ralph.  We went to one of our favorite creeks.  We met up with an old friend in another boat who was solo.  We both just drifted out the creek with the outgoing tide, casting to structure.  We would find some trout, catch 3 or 4, then instruct our friend where they were.  As we got 50 yards away he would drift through and catch some himself.  It was calm, and we could hear each other clearly from a long distance.  We just relaxed chatted and told stories, laughed and caught fish.  To me, this is my happy place.  We saw a bald eagle, a few osprey, wood storks, egrets, etc.    The trout bite varied from a subtle “pick up” to a very aggressive bite – indicative of an oncoming front.  We didn’t catch any gator trout today (biggest were around 17″) but the day maker was rounding a corner and getting a hard, drag pulling take.  It was a 25″ riverene striper.  Once we landed it and got pics, Ralph cast into the same hole and pulled out a second one.  All in all, an excellent day fishing in January in Charleston.

IMG_20150103_121754821 IMG_20150103_174247 IMG_20150103_174128

As usual, all fish caught on TroutEye jigs with various soft plastics.  Tight lines!

Water temps are around 52-55F.  Air temp on Jan 3rd was 66F!


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