Winter Fishing Is Heating Up!

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Posted by: Captain Woody - Comments Off on Winter Fishing Is Heating Up!

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 4.21.29 PMThe good news for trout anglers, if we keep getting cool weather the bite might pick up. I have confidence that in the past few years our trout populations seem to be increasing. This might be contributed to anglers taking a different position regarding the release of more spotted sea trout than they keep. Once a plentiful and seemingly endless resource, trout suffer severely during bouts with red tide and winter fish kills.

I’m continually learning more and better ways to live release fish. There is more to it than just tossing them back and hoping they will survive. We must release them quickly, in or near the water and never using a landing net, dry hands or a rag. If a photo is required do it quickly and gently. Try using a non-evasive bottom-lip gripping devices while holding the fish horizontally and gently supporting its belly with a wet hand. Ever wonder how long you should keep them out of the water for a photo; try holding your breath until put them back.

Voracious feeders, trout can quickly swallow your bait and become throat hooked. Once this occurs your best attempts at a live release is usually futile. So try, bending your hook barbs down and go for quicker hook-sets. A hook-set does not mean a hard set just a quick one followed immediately by a bent rod whenever you feel a fish on the line. Keeping your rod bent and line tight prevents the barbless hooks from dislodging as you reel.

If you want a nice trout dinner take a few home; they make delicious table fare. But only take enough for a meal; never plan on filling the freezer. Trout do not freeze well and quickly become freezer burned and thrown away after a few weeks. Remember, there’s nothing better than fresh fish for dinner and like we really need one, it gives us another excuse to go fishing.

So where do you find and how do you catch this highly sought after Tampa Bay fish? That’s a relatively easy question. Trout love grass flats, sandy potholes, rocky bottoms w/grass and incoming or outgoing tides. They eat live shrimp, sardines, small threadfins, small crabs and artificial lures. Try fishing the two to five foot grass flats especially those with a broken bottom in front of Bishops Harbor, Cockroach Bay, Apollo Beach, Weedon Island, Culbreath Isles, Pinellas Point, Tarpon Key, Ft. Desoto, Boca Ciega Bay, Picnic Island, Joe Island, Fourth Street, Cypress Flats, Rocky Point, and Double Branch or anywhere you have moving water and grass.

What’s Biting in February on Tampa Bay?

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 4.21.35 PMSnook:  With the warm weather, snook fishing has remained strong and as long as the water temperatures don’t fall too quickly you should be able to target them as usual. Of course the bait of choice is greenbacks and with the warm weather we’re still getting them off the flats.

Redfish: Redfish continue feeding and should continue right through the colder months. You’ll find them on shallow-water flats often with their tails up. When trying to pattern these wily adversaries watch for wading birds around the flats and mangroves since they feed on the same things. Its also mullet time and large numbers are schooling. Redfish tend to hang with these large schools eating whatever they stir up; so always target mullet schools.

Cobia, Sharks, Jacks: Cobia and smaller Blacktip, Spinner, Bonnet Heads, and smaller Hammerhead sharks should show up around the power plant hot water runoffs especially if the water temperatures ever drop. Using large shrimp, small crabs and pinfish always entices a quick hookup.

There are plenty of large Jack Crevalle (Yellowtail Jacks) feeding on the remaining bait schools and glass minnows. If you’ve never tangled with one of these incredible fighters you’re in for a real shock. Hooking and landing a Yellowtail in the 10 to 15 pound class is something you’ll not soon forget. When it’s over you’d swear you arms are three inches longer. Use whitebait if you can find it or shinny diving artificial lures with quick erratic actions.

Other Things to Catch: Look for flounder, sheepshead and mangrove snapper off the beaches on patches of hard bottom also bridges, oyster bars, rock piles or fish attractors and deep water docks throughout the Tampa Bay area. Try greenbacks, mussels, shrimp or oysters. If you’re fishing the bridges try scraping the pilings to get them going.