Fish, like people, don’t like it too hot or too cold. So if you are trying to land a big one in the Fishing Capital of the World, be sure to invest in a small, pocket thermometer, because water Temperature, like Time, Tackle, Tactics and Terrain, is one of the seven Universal Truths of Florida Fishing that will ring true, no matter if you're fishing in Jacksonville or Key West, Pensacola or Miami.
Every species of fish has an optimal temperature at which they function. If it gets too hot, they slow down. If it gets too cold, they find a deep hole, where the water might be warmer, and hide. Certain species, including snook, will even die if the water gets too cold.
But in general – and this holds true if you are fishing for Spanish mackerel off the Pier in Jacksonville or chasing tarpon off Boca Grande – 72 degrees is the magic number. Every species, inshore or offshore, comes alive when the water temperature hits this mark.
That doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish in warmer or cooler conditions. You just need to adjust your technique. Fishing for trout this winter in Sarasota Bay, the fish refused to bite, so we slowed down our retrieve and triggered a major feeding frenzy.
Next up: Tide.