Finding Saltwater Fish During Winter
For fly fishers during the winter, Western Oregon is more hospitable than Minnesota and many other places in the world. We are just past the winter solstice (shortest day of the year). In the northern hemisphere we can expect more cold weather in January than any other month. But in the Pacific Northwest we don’t get the prolonged below zero weather expected in the rocky Mountain States or the Northern Great Plains. Here January through March, an average day on the water is 40-45 degrees and most days it's raining. This fishery appeals to the hardier breed of winter steelheaders, but not many others. And as far as it goes, many of those same hardy steelheaders could use a break from the cold. But if you had the time and money where would you go to find respite from the wet cold?
Me personally, I would head south, but not far enough south to accumulate a four digit air flight bill. It wouldn't hurt my feelings if the accommodations were a little rustic. I have always put my interest on mixing with the natives and learning their culture. Or you can call Fly Water Travel or Fishing With Larry and they will hook you up with the best lodges.
My exact destination would be dictated by the amount of time and money available, the exact time of year and adventuresome spirit at that time. Saltwater fish vary in size from small trout to monsters that eat trout size fish. But not every destination has the full range of sizes. Size and fish species available are usually controlled by Ocean water depth and temperature. Water depth is associated with the contour of the bottom, but water temperature is pretty much dictated by the time of year and position on the globe. The saltwater fish that I like best live in water that ranges from high seventies to mid-eighties. Ocean fish can migrate and seek out the water temperatures that suite them the best. That means in January you will want to travel far enough south to be in the tropical band to find the water temperature range for bonefish, permit, tarpon, dorado, billfish, etc. That will exclude the southern United states most of the time.
There are of course saltwater fish that fill in the void left by the tropical bunch. In the Florida Keys bluefish and jack crevalle replace bonefish and permit. In the sea of Cortez California Yellowtail replace dorado. The winter weather along the US gulf coast can be pretty unpredictable. It would be better to go further south in January.
The easiest way to find out any ocean water temperature for most locations in the western world is: https://seatemperature.info/
January water temperature at Key West in the Florida Keys averages 69-73.
Temperature January 1, 2020: 77
January water temperature at Rockport, TX averages 60-65 degrees.
Temperature January 1, 2020: 63
January water temperature at Loreto, MX averages 66-72 degrees.
Temperature January 1, 2020: 68
January water temperature around Placencia, Belize averages 78-82 degrees.
Temperature January 1, 2020: 81
January water temperature around Havana, Cuba averages 79-80 degrees.
Temperature January 1, 2020: 81
Barra de Navidad, Mexico
January water temperature around Barra de Navidad, MX averages 82-85 degrees.
Temperature January 1, 2020: 84