Winter fishing patterns change quickly

The Florida freshwater fishing forecast for the first full week of January will be typical of the winter season with high pressure systems dropping temperatures into the lower 40 and high 30s for a few days and low pressure systems forcing temps into the upper 70s for a few days.

Rain will be in the forecast, clouds will dominate most days of the week, and winds will shift daily by 90 degrees clockwise and produce speeds in the middle teens more often than in the single digits.

In other words, there will be no discernable fish feeding pattern for anglers to determine. Any affect that the sun and moon has on fish will be over-powered by ever-changing weather factors, thus altering the normal celestial-influence patterns on fish and wildlife.

The only thing we can hope for each day is that nature cooperates at the same time as the solar and lunar influences normally cause fish to feed - which is from 4-7 p.m. over the next three days when the moon is overhead. And the 'good news' is that I believe this will occur this week even though cold weather and rainfall is certain for the first half of the week.

Today is a 'case in point', where rainfall will be sporadic across the state throughout the day; some areas won't see any rain at all while other areas experience a majority of the rain forecasted. And since the sun and moon phases are creating a late afternoon fish feeding migration for the next three days, the regions least affected by radical weather changes and conditions, will have fish active in feeding areas that most anglers prefer--shorelines.

One of the things that I do this time of year, to see if this weather problem can be negated to some degree, is to check the weather situation for central Florida's regions a few hours before the sunrise, to see if it can be determined which lakes have the least probability for storm and heavy rain activity during the solunar feeding times of the day. Some days Lake Toho offers the better fishing conditions, and other days, Istokpoga, or Okeechobee-some days my garage offers the only beneficial fish-type condition by which to clean my boat and update gear.

Seriously though, fish feed even in the worst of rain events. What the angler must do is to figure out what fish do, if anything, when inclement weather occurs. For instance, fish do not stay in turbulent water but instead move to non-moving water, and therefore won't be found along shorelines of four feet or less depths with heavy wave-action present.

Instead they will be along those same shorelines albeit, at a depth where wave-action doesn't affect them. Sitting anchored down in the rain, fishing at the right depth can produce good fishing results. Better yet, trolling in a constant rain where the shoreline feeding area has a natural break to depths not affected by surface wave action will produce even better.

With the weather changing significantly, sometimes hourly, the fish could move to shoreline cover areas for a brief period when sunlight breaks through clouds and winds subside. Then, as the wind and clouds increase and switch directions, fish adjust again to secondary migration areas in deeper water, but not too far from the shoreline feeding area.

Remember, if you have been catching fish along a shoreline area regularly, and the weather changes and suddenly the fish don't bite anymore, switch to trolling or long casting rods, move out from that same area to deeper water and begin to hunt for them along the lake's bottom. They are there, they will strike, and all you have to do is achieve the right depth and speed with your bait presentation.

For Monday and Tuesday, a serious cold front will be causing fish to shutdown all feeding activity 'after the weather system arrives'. Due to temperatures dropping into the middle to upper thirties, it will take fish thirty-six hours or more to adjust and begin to need food again. Bright sunlight is forecasted for late Wednesday so perhaps they'll start to feed in larger numbers then.

The key for Monday is that fish will feed prior to the weather change, signified by the wind-direction change from a southwestern direction to a more northerly direction. The Monday major feeding migration occurs from 3-5 p.m. but weather will shut that down, 'so' fish will instead feed prior to this change, which I predict will be from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. as the moonrise occurs.

Tuesday, in my opinion, is a day to stay off the water and prepare for better fishing days ahead.

Lately I have been guiding from angler's boats instead of my own. It seems as angler's budgets get tighter these days, this particular guide package that I offer is best to keep costs down to a minimum for the angler. At $20 per hour, you get to log bass fishing hole coordinance, learn bait presentation techniques in all cover applications that lakes present, and take home 'fishing help maps and materials' that document the day's results and challenges. My bass fishing 'Show and Tell Guide Packages' save you money while advancing your bass fishing catch rates.

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Looking ahead to the second half of this week, Wednesday evening probably will be the soonest fishing period to produce modest catches, perhaps. Reaction strikes are more likely than feeding strikes, so you'll have to get your bait presentation perfect for success.

The second half of this week the weather forecast is "ok'' for fishing. Meaning an east wind will warm things up to the lower eighties for a high and the lower sixties for a low. Rain again, is in the forecast for Thursday and Friday but next weekend promises to be ideal for all fishing factors.

From Thursday through next Sunday, the major feeding migration of the day occurs during the morning hours as the moonset starts the feeding period and peaks during the sunrise and ends two to three hours later.

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