Fishing speeds, depths are key

Highlands Bass Angler

The Florida freshwater fishing forecast for this week includes the first-quarter moon phase and a typical winter weather forecast where no factors remain unchanged for long. The good news is that there are no cold fronts in the weather forecast for the next 14 days, which will keep the water temperatures in the 'ideal winter range', which is in the lower-to-middle 60s, during the better fishing days of the month.

Over the next seven days, the wind direction will be rotating clockwise daily about 90 degrees have mild to moderate speeds from 6-12 mph. Temperatures will be changing every two to three days by about 12 degrees, with Saturday reaching the middle 80s, Sunday the lower 70s. Monday back to 80 degrees and Wednesday in the upper 60s, a normal winter pattern.

The major feeding migration of the day over the next four days will favor the early morning and evening anglers. The moon's position of overhead during the sunset will cause the best feeding migration of the day to occur from 6-8 p.m. today. The peak period will occur from 6-7 p.m. and achieve a 5-6 rating, with 10 being best. Daily this feeding period will move later by fifty minutes and gain strength slightly.

During the sunrise today, the moon will be in the underfoot position which should create a feeding migration equal to the sunset feeding migration. From 7-9:30 a.m. today expect a rating of 4-5 on the ten-scale. Each day expect the period to move later by fifty minutes and increase in feeding intensity and duration by a half point.

As we head into the weekend, the early morning feeding migration will catch up to its counterpart, the late evening feeding migration, simply because the water temperatures in both periods will be the same. This time of year, due to the average water temperature being in the middle 60s, fish will feed more aggressively during the 'high temperature period' of the day. Conversely, during the summer months, fish feed more aggressively during the coolest temperature point of the day.

The minor feeding migration of the day will occur during the moonrise period from 1-3 p.m. There will be a spike in feeding activity as the moon comes into view and the water temperature reaches its daily high point. This 'minor' period might out-perform the other two migration periods simply because it occurs at the same time as the high water-temperature peak time of day.

The weekend fishing forecast starts out Saturday with the winds switching direction from north to south just before the sunrise. A speed in the middle to lower teens is expected with a high temp of 85 degrees. Sunday the winds switch out of the west and drop to below ten mph and drop the daily high temp to the lower 70s.

Next weeks full moon fishing forecast starts out Monday with mild winds out of the southeast and 80 for a high temp. Tuesday a mild cold front starts to arrive as winds switch out of a northwesterly direction, dropping temps to 70 for Wednesday's high.

For the full moon and lunar orbit apogee next Thursday skies will be cloudless for two days which should make for some great midnight and midday fishing. The moonrise will occur during the sunset and this too should produce great fish feeding activity in the warmest water period of the day.

Fishing Facts: Once anglers learn which artificial baits 'match the hatch' thereby tricking fish into striking fake food-sources; they are able to fish with confidence. However, matching artificial baits to main food sources for a particular lake, in a given season, within a weather situation, is not always necessary to trigger fish to strike.

What is more important is to achieve the 'right depth' and the 'right speed' or it won't matter how correct you match the most 'preferred type of food by the fish' for that fishing day. This is especially true for bass in Florida because they don't chase their meals as they get larger and wiser, even if it happens to be exactly what they want to eat.

Assuming the angler has found the areas of the lake where fish and bass usually feed, the angler needs then to learn what depth they are at, and what speed, if any at all, that is required to make eating the bait seem easy to the fish. It should be understood that the smaller bass for instance, will chase food sources, while the larger members have greater feeding success by ambushing prey along protective structures and migration routes.

For this reason, when you find yourself catching medium to smaller bass only, try working your baits along the deeper sections of the feeding area, and dropping the retrieve speed to almost nothing (one foot every two seconds) and the bait-depth of no greater than one foot off the lake's bottom.

If you put the bait-type that bass 'don't want to eat' right in front of their mouth, at the very least, they'll suck it in, for the purpose of crushing it, and then blow it back out. However if you swim the non-preferred bait just a foot away, they'll ignore it or move away as if it doesn't exist. However if the bait pauses for longer than fifteen seconds within an ambush area or point, the odds of the bass attempting to kill the intruder, goes up considerably.

Getting the depth and speed correct is the key for the best fishing success once you've discovered where fish are actively migrating to feed or to digest food.

Dave Douglass is a bass fishing guide and conservationist since 2006 in Highlands County. Website: Phone: 863-381-8474. Email: