It’s apparent this January is off to a different start than what we saw in 2013. Temperatures are already cooler this year.
Recent cold fronts have really dropped the water temperature and changed my daily approach on recent charters. We’re seeing cloudy, overcast days mixed with some extreme cold. Combined they mean lower water temperatures.
Picking good days based on good weather conditions and the right tides makes for good fishing.
This time of year is a good time to dust off your bag of artificial baits because trout fishing will be very productive throughout the winter. They’re one of my favorite fish to target this time of year and they love to eat artificial bait. Whether you’re a novice or expert, you’ll enjoy catching them.
If you’re looking to pick up a few artificial baits I’d suggest looking at the Mirrolure lineup. You can’t go wrong with the Mirrodine 17MR. Just find one of the many healthy grass flats that line the South Shore area of Tampa Bay and you’ll find your fill of great trout fishing.
Redfish are another cold weather fish that can be easily found on the flats in good numbers this time of year. The key to finding reds on the flats is fishing around the potholes and along the flats.
Tides are generally lower this time of year due to wind. This makes water too shallow for the fish, so they look for deeper water until the tide comes in. When you find these areas you can expect to have a good day of fishing, since there will be a lot of fish in a limited amount of area. Downsizing your leader material to 20-pound Ohero Fluorocarbon will get you more bites, especially when throwing artificial baits. Residential docks are also a great place to find redfish. Just look for docks with good tidal flow, lots of growth on the poles and schools of mullet. Mullet tend to roam around the docks this time of year and redfish have been known to run with them.
Last but not least are sheepshead. These toothy little critters show up in big schools around the wrecks and ledges throughout Tampa Bay. You can also find plenty of them around residential docks and on the flats, but I find that the fish on the wrecks are a bit easier to catch.
There are a bunch of different baits and techniques to use but I like to keep it simple. You can’t go wrong with a No. 1 Daiichi circle hook tipped with a small, select shrimp and just enough weight to keep the bait on the bottom. Sheepshead are a great fish to target and will make for some awesome fishing during cold winter days.
Jason Prieto is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 727-9890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.