Ah, winter in Florida. Ya gotta love the schizophrenic nature of our cool season: It might be freezing right now, but the day after tomorrow will be 85 degrees. If you think this makes it tough for you to plan, think about how it must be for the fish. So far this winter, our water temperatures have been a bit higher than what we — and the fish — normally expect. Over the past week or so, that temperature has dropped way down, to the point it’s almost too low.
Every fish species has an ideal temperature range, in which they will be most active and behave “normally.” Colder-water fish, like cod and tautog, would do very poorly here because the water is much too warm for them. Yet truly tropical species sometimes run into trouble because the water is too cold. Florida is where tropical and temperate climate ranges meet, so we have a mix of species that prefer tropical and warm temperate temperatures. Some, like snook and tarpon, prefer water in the 70s and low 80s. Others, including trout and sheepshead, get fired up by water temps in the 60s. And still more, such as flounder and redfish, are tolerant of a wide temperature range. But when the water temperature dips down into the 50s, even chill-tolerant fish start to slow down.
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