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January felt like any other January in Tampa Bay...stretches of reasonably good weather in the seventies with strong cold fronts peppered in between. With all three species of the major inshore game fishes closed, taking home dinner was challenging.  Several Tampa Bay Fishing Charters were run to near shore hard bottom and reefs in the hopes of finding a few mangrove snapper.  As luck would have it, these fish were there but were extremely temperamental.  Light leaders and very natural bait presentations were requitred to trigger a strike.  On the bright side, these fish were 2 - 3 pounds....excellent size for fish this close to shore.

Seatrout in Clearwater are everywhere

Seatroout fishing is currently bordering on "too easy" and, with no fish being harvested and more showing up, this is unlikely to change. Swim tail shad baits and the worm like "Slammer" thrown on 1/4 oz. jig heads are really all that's required on most days as these trout are aggressively hitting these baits. Live shrimp or white bait only make this an easier equation. The only factor that will diminish this bite now is a cold front but, within a day or two, these fish are back to biting. Most recently, these fish have been averaging a little smaller than normal...16-18 inches...but the next cold front will likely shuffle the deck again and could bring in larger fish.

Redfish, Pompano and trout fishing in Tampabay

Although there are still occasional non trout species being caught such as mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, pompano and sheepshead, the other fish being targeted now is redfish. For whatever reason, the average size of these fish this time of year seems to be 16 - 20 inches although, for those willing to work at it, larger fish can be found. The bigger ones tend to be singles or in very small groups however. Tampa Fishing Guides generally agree that shrimp will work best as a shrimp will catch even the smallest redfish but, when fishing open flats, cut baits still have great value as they provide for long casts and are tough baits...making it difficult for the pinfish to pull them off before a redfish arrives.

If getting outdoors and shopping is of interest, visit one of the largest flea markets in the south....The Oldsmar Flea Market. Another great local outdoor experience is to visit Egmont Key at the mouth of Tampa Bay. There are a variety of activities including shell collecting, fishing, snorkeling and touring the lighthouse and historic Fort Dade.  Good luck and good fishing.


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