The two most popular questions asked by someone interested in booking a Tampa Fishing Charter this time of year are 1) How's the fishing in December and 2) What fish are available to be caught.  The answer to the first question is that fishing can be outstanding to really poor.  The answer to the second question is that just about anything that swims around here can be caught in December but it all depends on the current weather pattern. Although the weather in the Tampa Bay Area is much tamer than conditions experienced by those living in the northeast, fishing locally is still affected by these big winter storms seen up north.  Most storms reaching down to Florida this time of year come in the form of cold fronts.  The weather patterns driven by these fronts totally dictate how good the fishing will be. As fall approaches, water temperatures tumble from the high eighties of summer down into the seventies and eventually, the sixties. The first impact of these falling temps is that Spanish Mackerel and possibly bonita show up a few miles off the beaches, followed by kingfish. When near shore waters are in the range of 68 - 75 degrees, that is generally considered prime kingfish range. Cold fronts however, bring more than cooler temperatures. They also bring wind and rain, the former of which is more significant. Bait and even moreso, kingfish, prefer clean water so, for kings to come in close, clean water in the right temperature range must be available.  A big west wind can push kingfish that were a mile and a half off the beach out 10 -15 miles as it makes the near shore water dirty. It will take several days of calm or east winds to bring these fish back in. 

What happens inshore when this same cold front pushes in? Initially, nothing good.  As the inshore water is shallow, it cools much more than nearshore or offshore waters do and this shocks the fish.  An overnight drop in water temp of 7 - 8 degrees is not uncommon when a big front comes through and this will shut down the bite on just about everything. (If the only day that you can fish is right after a cold front, put on a wool hat and target sheepshead). Also, fish like seatrout and snook aren't big fans of dirty water so the winds that are always associated with these fronts further damage the fishing. As waters warm and the wind settles during the days following the front, fishing slowly improves...all the way up to the next front.  Do remember that the day before a cold front can provide crazy good fishing. 

There are other considerations as well.  Tampa Fishing Guides know that tide movement generally helps both seatrout and snook fishing on days with strong tides, during the fastest flowing part of the tide, is important for maximizing chances to catch these fish.  If fishing for snook in the backwaters, this is less important but still a factor to consider. Also, as it relates to the individual species, redfish and seatrout will tolerate cold, but snook despise it so, once temperatures drop below the high sixties, regardless of the other conditions, snook will get a lot harder to catch.  Redfish and trout will bite in the colder water as long as they have had time to acclimate.  Immediately after a cold front and a significant drop in water temp, they will not have had time to do this but once air temperatures start to stabilize and warm, these fish will bite progressively better each day as they get used to the new colder normal temperature range. Regarding the large seatrout specifically, they generally won't show up in numbers until a cold front or two has rolled through as they like it when water temps dip below seventy degrees. Thanksgiving to March is generally the best time of year to target the biggest trout but, again, attention still needs to be paid to the weather patterns, tides and temperature ranges. 

As far as what fish could be available on a given fishing day in December, the answer is a long one because most species "could" be caught.  The best answer though is, "A clear answer will be available a day or two before the actual fishing day as the weather pattern will be known".  There have been recent Tampa Fishing Charters where Spanish Mackerel, kingfish, bonita, snook, redfish and seatrout have all been caught on the same 6 hour trip...but this is a day when the moon, stars and sun all align. On the bright side, as long as fishing immediately behind a cold front and sub 60 degree temperatures are avoided, there will be something to catch.

Looking to see an old movie in a historic theatre, check out the Tampa Theatre.  Originally built in 1926, and narrowly escaping demolition in 1973, this historic theatre now hosts in the neighborhood of 600 events a year. If fishing is slow and there's an interest in seeing what you might be catching next time on the water, visit the Florida Aquarium. Interested in a closer look, dive with the sharks.  Good luck and good fishing.




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