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Crystal River Fishing

Wintertime Fishing in Crystal River

By December 30, 2020No Comments
A picture of Crystal River Fishing Charters Wintertime Fishing in Crystal River

Last Updated on December 30, 2020 by Eric Bonneman

Crystal River, Florida is home to some of the best wintertime fishing in the state. With extreme negative tides and pockets of temperate water, some of the most sought after inshore gamefish become the target for the day. These species include redfish, black drum, sea trout, and sheepshead. Many of which put up an amazing fight and taste great as well. Add to this the excitement of skinny water sight fishing – and wintertime quickly becomes our favorite time of year in the area. So much so, we dedicated a charter offering just for this season, see Extreme Shallow Water Fishing Charters for more info.

It’s All About The Tides & Environment

If you arent sure why the tidal swings are so much greater in the winter, I will explain. The moon itself, as it orbits, creates a gravitational pull that affects tidal flows. The stronger that gravitational pull, the more aggressive the tide. In the winter, the moon is closer to the earth. In this, the gravitational pull is greater and tides (both high and low) are more extreme.

Why do we like extreme low tides in Crystal River?

This is where the environment found here comes into play. Crystal River is an open shot to some of the best year-round saltwater inshore flats in the state. These flats are fed by the Gulf of Mexico and freshwater rivers. Inbetween the Gulf and the rivers, during extreme shallow tides, the flats become near impassable. At the same time, since winter is cooler, the water is cooler. These tropical fish look for warmer water. The only place holding warmer water is up the rivers. These spring-fed rivers maintain a temperate state that these fish look for during the winter months.

Putting this all together you will see that during low tides all of these inshore gamefish can be found upriver. The boats able to get to them must be specialized to traverse extremely shallow crossings. Once here, however, the water is deeper and these fish species are packed in. Like Captain Louie Argiro says, “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”

a fisherman holding a sheepshead he caught


How To Fish Them

This is where the fun begins. No matter your skill level, you can enjoy a day of true Florida inshore sight-fishing. This is one of the most exciting and fast-paced ways to fish. You have clear waters with low tides that allow you to both spot laid-up fish, as well as fish moving around the flats by looking for pushing water on the surface.

Your choice of baits and lures change during this time of year, generally slower-moving baits that mimick winter favorites for these species. Namely crustaceans and small baitfish patterns. How you present them and the action you provide will really be dependant on the fish. A basic rule: The colder the slower, the warmer the faster. But in all cases, match the movement of your chosen bait pattern.

This is also a great time for fly fisherman who has Florida sight-fishing on their bucket list (learn more).

Get Started:

Book a winter trip with us: Online Reservations

Plan a trip to Crystal River: Contact Us

Further Reading:


Eric Bonneman

Just a guy who fishes and writes about his experiences.

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