What best describes January fishing in the Tampa / Clearwater area?  Inconsistent. While fishing can be red hot for large sea trout off of northern Pinellas County, uninterrupted stretches of cold can flat shut things down. The back half of January delivered 8 consecutive days with night time temperatures dropping into the mid to upper forties. Simply put, this weather is not good for Tampa Fishing Guides... unless a lot of down time is needed to fix boat and tackle. The good news is that, as always, spring will come and early February arrived with many days in the 70's, improving the fishing.

Big Winter Seatrout in Tampa

The game plan for most Tampa Fishing Charters over the last week has been to go secure a limit of large trout and then use the remaining time to hunt down scattered redfish, sheephead or small black drum which tend to hang around rock piles, oyster bars and residential docks during the colder months. Trout, due to the absence of whitebait, have been targeted with large shrimp, as well as small grass grunts and pinfish.  These other species are best pursued with live shrimp as all of these fish respond best to this bait. Some days produce a few extra fish to eat, although due to red tide closure, redfish is now excluded from harvest until May 10th, 2019. Other fish may enter the mix during a winter fishing day....most commonly ladyfish, small jacks, bluefish or an occasional Spanish mackerel. Any time fish are being pursued in the salt however, surprises can occur, such as the 3 pound permit pictured below.  Generally, this fish that is caught on offshore reefs in this area.

Trout, snook, permit and more in Clearwater Florida

Moving through the month, there will likely be a few more fronts dropping down from the north, but these will become less frequent and will ultimately go away towards the end of March. Although cold fronts slow fishing, these will bring in more large seatrout, so their arrival does have a benefit. Big seatrout will remain the mainstay of Tampa / Clearwater Fishing Captains through February.  Towards the end of the month, more redfish will begin to show and, moving into March, these fish will become more of a primary target as tide heights increase. Whitebait will also return soon, as small amounts have been showing up here and there.  With a tank full of this prime bait, backwater snook might even become a possibility should the weather deliver 3 or 4 warm days in a row.

With potentially some of the most comfortable weather of the year approaching soon, it's a great time to take advantage of local outdoor activities. Right here, there are two great places to go.  Drive out to Honeymoon Island State Park, fish from the beach or take a long walk to the beautiful north end.... or catch the Caledesi Ferry, which leaves from Honeymoon Island, as it will take you over to Caledesi Island State Park. Caledesi is only accessible by boat and offers kayaking, fishing, a beautiful beach and excellent hiking trails through the center of the island. Good luck and good fishing.


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