The holidays are done. The guests are gone and another year resumes. 2020 is here. As of this writing, there are 364 days left to go fishing this year.  Life is good. Although snook, trout and redfish remain closed thru this coming May, die hard anglers are largely unaffected as it's a whole lot more about the pull on the line than taking fish out of the frying pan. For those who missed it, there has been one regulation change relating to trout.  Once these fish can be harvested again, the limit has been dropped to three fish 15-19 inches, or two fish 15-19 inches with one fish over 19 inches allowed. These regulations are by region only, not by state.  West Central Florida is now in the recently remapped "South" region.

Monster Trout in Tampa Bay

December was a month littered with many small cold fronts, making Tampa Bay Fishing Guides work a little harder as, with the passing of each front, fish move and need to be found again. Also, each blast of cold tends to put the fish to sleep for a day or two until waters begin to warm. This makes it difficult to tell customers what to expect until their fishing day arrives.... as the day preceding a cold front generally produces outstanding fishing whereas the day following promises very tough conditions. 

Large seatrout become the primary species targeted during the colder months.  The good news is that fish numbers on these charters can be incredibly high, up to 30 fish in a 4 hours trip, so family groups, especially those with kids, can really have an enjoyable day.  The only down side is that these trout represent the smallest species targeted all year. With that said however, redfish remain a viable species to pursue during the winter as well so given the right tides, a half dozen redfish added to the big trout numbers make for a great day.  Other species such as ladyfish, jack crevalle, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and the occasional pompano are also encountered in the same areas as the trout. So even though catching the larger snook and big redfish are a less common occurrence in the winter, an enjoyable, multi-species fishing trip can be had.

Tampa Fishing Charters for Snook and Redfish

The big trout, just like everything else around here, prefer whitebait when it's available. Although more difficult to acquire in the winter, it is generally available when temperatures are mid sixties or above.  As temperatures start to push down to 60 degrees and below, many Tampa Fishing guides believe that this bait seeks warmer (translation deeper) water. If whitebait can't be found, shrimp are generally second runner up on the bait preference scale for these trout and of course are also a favorite of redfish.  Small pinfish and grass grunts can also be a great bait for both of these fish although there are days when the trout eat then up and other days when they don't. Redfish are generally happy to find a good meal in the winter and are less picky. Cut fish baits of all different varieties are also an effective bait for redfish, with many Tampa Bay Fishing Guides swearing by cut ladyfish chunks.

Small to medium sized minnow imitating suspending baits as well as plastic swim tails attached to a 1/4 ounce jig are consistent trout catchers and are great for the angler not wanting to mess with securing bait in the morning.  The Pumpkin Jigs "Slammer" tails are as effective as anything sold. Additionally, when searching for trout, these lures cover a lot of water fast and can help find fish quickly on a given flat.

Although cooler this time of year, it's actually a great time to see a couple of Florida's most popular animals.  Visit the Tampa Electric Company in Apollo Beach to see manatees up close and personal.  These animals gather at the warm water outlet from this plant and are generally abundant in the cooler months. Gators are more easily seen this time of year as they are ectothermic animals...meaning that their environment regulates the temperature of their bodies.  This being the case, during cooler temperatures, alligators will come out of the water during the day to warm up, and are, as a result, much more visible during daylight hours in the winter. Two of the best viewing locations for these animals are Mayakka River State Park and Boyd Hill State Park.  Good luck and good fishing.




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