What are the best species to target when fishing in Tampa / Clearwater in December? The question can be hard to answer until December actually arrives.  During this month last year, Kingfish were being caught almost until January 1st.  Big seatrout had arrived, as expected, but with prolonged cold staying away, snook fishing wasn't half bad either. There were some redfish around and a trip to the nearshore reefs might yield a few nice snapper...and, of course, gag grouper are always closer to the beach this time of year.  Bottom line.  There are decent fishing opportunities, it's just a matter of which one to pursue. Weather and water temperatures will dictate everything.

Large seatrout will always make an appearance by December.  As of the writing of this report, a few larger fish have been sighted, but no large schools to speak of.  With that said, a cold front is arriving today and this one could be the trigger.  Water temps near 60 degrees are certainly low enough to start the invasion of these fish and temperatures have been like this for over a week.  Any more cold should throw the switch.  Although these large trout are among the smaller fish targeted by Tampa Fishing Guides, they are abundant, reasonably good to eat and are very receptive to hitting artificials.  Swim tail plastics on 1/4 ounce heads and minnow imitating plugs are the most popular choices.  If whitebait is still in the area, there is no better live bait but select shrimp fished under a bobber or free lined represent a great plan B. Sweep baits through target areas on stronger moving tides for best results.

Winter Fishing for Redfish and Trout in Clearwater

With lower winter tides, redfish become a bit less accessible although there are certainly fish still around.  Over the course of the next month, search out areas with large mullet schools as, if redfish are in the area, they are likely to be with them. A typical approach used by Tampa Fishing Captains, once a mullet school is located, is to set up to reach the front edge of the school and put a spread of baits out, both live and cut, and then wait five or ten minutes.  If there is no activity, move up 15 or twenty yards and repeat the process.  Patiently work through the mullet schools using this technique and pay attention to water movement indicating larger fish (redfish).  Although this approach is time consuming, the rewards can be great if a group of fish is located. With winter's big low tides, pothole fishing can also be productive.  Dropping baits in remaining potholes on flats frequented by redfish may uncover a pocket of quality fish.

Snook were caught well into December in 2017 as the month was exceptionally warm. If temperatures stay up, interior mangrove shorelines, spoil islands and canals can all harbor fish.  If whitebait can be found, the location process is enhanced by generous chumming.

Big Kingfish, Mackerel and Bonita off Tampa

Nearshore Tampa Fishing Charters for kingfish have been excellent over the last month. There are still reports of fish in the area and, if water temperatures regroup to the mid sixties and schools of thread fin herring stay in residence off the beach, this fishing could continue until the end of the month. Large mackerel have been caught while searching for the kings as well as a smattering of bonita (bonito). Mangrove snapper fishing has historically beed good during this month although the near shore reefs in northern Pinellas County were affected by the red tide late this summer. It's probably worth an exploratory trip out there to see if these fish have repopulated these structures.  Gag grouper have moved in to areas inside of 10 miles now and some quality fish are being found...remember that the new length regulation is 24 inches.  This season remains open until December 31st.

With the holidays approaching, its a great time to take advantage of some of Tampa's fine family oriented attractions. An age old favorite, Lowry Park Zoo, has Christmas lights, a variety of animals to view and is definitely kid friendly. Another option would be to visit the Saturday Morning Market in St Pete.  This is one of the largest outdoor markets in the southeast and a great place to load up on fresh produce for the week.  Good luck and good fishing.





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