What are the best days to catch fish in the Tampa / Clearwater Area in January?  Simply look to the tide charts and the weatherman for the answers.  Strong tides make for better fishing, period. Bigger water flow tends to wake fish up.  Is it because more food is being moved or because the moving water is more oxygenated, or because fish have to expend less energy to catch dinner.? It may be some of these factors or all in combination but the bottom line is that better water movement produces better fishing for the vast majority of the species targeted in this area. So what about the weather?  Florida is hit by a cold front, on average, every seven days during the coldest months.  When a front moves in that drops air temperatures by 15 or 20 degrees, it's a safe bet that inshore water temps drop about half as much.  That's huge.  So strong cold fronts are generally followed by poor fishing.  As air and water temps warm, fish both acclimate to the colder temperatures and appreciate the warming temperatures...all of which leads to a greater likelihood that their focus will return to eating as opposed to finding ways to simply warm up. So each day after the front that is warmer, the better the fishing should be...right up until the next cold front, when the fish will again be shut off.  So match days with positive weather trends to days with big water movement and fishing will be productive. 

Best Seatrout Fishing in Tampa Clearwater Area

The primary target of inshore anglers during January in West Central Florida is large seatrout. Although these fish represent the smallest fish targeted annually by Tampa Fishing Captains, they are abundant and larger than during any other time of the year and can provide fast paced action. Fishing towards the end of December was strong, with limits being the norm.  Cold temperatures had chased the white bait away so select shrimp, small pinfish and grunts became the go to baits...usually presented under a bobber. Swim tail plastics on jig heads were also highly productive. As January arrived, a string of warm days followed....the last 2 or 3 of these days being in the eighties. Water temps peaked at 71 degrees in St Joseph's Sound. The post cold front warming, mentioned in the paragraph above, is generally good...EXCEPT when it's warm for too long. Temperatures pushing past the mid sixties, in the middle of winter, can confuse and disperse these big trout, which is exactly what happened...and fishing got tougher. No need to worry however as, within 24 hours of this report, evening temperatures will be in the forties and, in a few days, all will be well.

Most Tampa Fishing Charters start by pursuing the big trout.  Once limits are achieved, the focus will change to other species available at this time of year, most notably, redfish.  Unlike the summer months when these fish are generally abundant along mangrove shorelines and often found in decent congregations, winter fish are more dispersed and these same mangrove shorelines don't receive nearly as much water on winter's lower tides. So the approach changes...oyster bars, potholes on flats and residential docks become the targeted locations. Shrimp, cut fish baits and small pinfish/grunts are rarely refused if fish can be located.  With a persistent effort, decent fish can be located but there will also be a greater abundance of under slot fish.

Pompano Shark Drum Redfish Fishing

On certain days, a fairly wide range of species can be caught, but attempting to do this is not without risk.  Tampa Fishing Captains know that the "safe" approach at this time of year is to keep after the trout as this will usually yield the most action. If clients are interested in diversity, which is more likely to be the case with out of town customers who want to see "new species", then it's time to travel.  Fishing oyster bars, rock piles, deeper holes and residential docks requires significantly more effort, but results can be impressive.  Small sharks, redfish, drum, sheephead and pompano are a few of the"other species" that may be encountered. If the sun, moon and stars align, fishing on a beautiful clear day with moderate temperatures can result in a half dozen species being landed.

Another great activity on one of these perfect winter days would be to pay a visit to Weedon Island...a scenic outdoor preserve where walking, fishing and kayaking are among possible activities. If a big party is of more interest, make sure not to miss the Gasparilla Pirate Fest, starting January 26th.  Good luck and good fishing.

 

 

 

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