December is here and what wonderful weather we’re having in West Central Florida. Just cool enough in the mornings for a light jacket, and then warm enough for shorts in the afternoon. Hope this trend continues through the winter season.
The weather can be one of the biggest hurdles to cross when fishing during the winter months. If it’s too cold, the fish usually don’t want to eat and too much wind makes it very hard to get out and find fish by boat or from shore.
Spanish and king mackerel are all but gone. These fish migrate south for the winter so expect to see them return in late February or early March.
The snook population is moving into the rivers and deeper waters of Tampa Bay. Snook seek out warmer waters like spring-fed rivers, power plants with warm-water runoff or deep spots that hold warmth as the surface water cools. If you catch one, please handle it with care since the species is still rebounding from the winter freeze of 2010. Like most reputable fishing guides, I have opted not to harvest snook this year in an attempt to keep the numbers of snook up to maximize next year’s spawning ratio.
Trout will be in the deeper grass flats and some of the deeper spots of the Manatee and Little Manatee rivers. Try fishing trout with some of the soft plastic artificial baits. DOA makes some very good plastic baits. One of my favorites is the DOA shrimp. It works well this time of year because you can fish it very slow or you can use it under a Cajun Thunder popping cork just as you would a live shrimp. The season is open year round in the southern region of Florida.
Redfish can be found near the many oyster bars that fill the backcountry of Tampa Bay. Try using a pinfish under a bobber or one of the many artificial types of bait available at the local tackle shops. One of my favorites for redfish is a gold, ¼-ounce spoon. You can also work the spoon at different speeds. I usually slow my retrieve down when fishing the colder months.
November fishing was very good, and I’m very optimistic that the December bite will be just as good. My best bet for the month is redfish. I just hope the wind speed stays low so we can get out and fish.
If you can, get out and enjoy this great place we live in. South Shore waters have some of the best fishing Florida has to offer.
Be safe out there.
Danny Guarino is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 956-2010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.