Step outside and the chilly winter air stings your nose and ears. What do you do? You grab a jacket, gloves and maybe a neck gaiter. Pretty standard stuff, but fish have no such options. They gotta deal with whatever nature throws their way by being smart and seeking refuge in life-sustaining habitat.

Fortunately, the vast Mississippi River Delta abounds with such cold-weather sanctuaries that keep redfish and speckled trout warm during winter’s chill. Some are more obvious than others, but this estuarine wonder often rewards anglers who realize the differences between these top-billing species.

“As a given, reds are almost always active and catchable in the winter,” said Capt. Anthony Randazzo, of Venice-based Paradise Plus Guide Service. “Specks, on the other hand, are susceptible to lockjaw when water temperatures plummet and barometers skyrocket. It may take three days for specks to recompose themselves after a sharp cold front, whereas redfish will bite before, during and after the fronts.”

Mississippi River level is key

According to Randazzo, specifics of winter fish location can be very dynamic based upon the river height and corresponding salinity levels. The southern terminus for one of the nation’s largest drains answers to many upstream influences, so fluctuation is the norm.

“The higher the salinity, the more likely the multitudes of speckled trout and redfish will be drawn to the winter wonderland of the main river system,” Randazzo said. “When this scenario is present, we catch lots of specks and reds — not to mention some of the most consistent stringers of the year in the river itself.

“The fish have all of the comforts of deep