Tampa Fishing Reports

February 2009 Fishing Report

February means it's time to target big trout. Large specimens are abundant and average 17 to 22 inches in length. Although there are days when these fish don't cooperate, they seem to be the exception this time of year. As a general rule, fishing is productive from several days after a cold front passes right up until the next one arrives. The day after the front comes through will likely be the toughest day to catch fish. After weak cold fronts however, fishing may be largely unaffected. Also, don't assume that the rainy day before the real cold arrives won't be good. The trout don't care about the rain and may still feed aggressively if the actual front hasn't pushed through yet. Target times of day that have the best water movement to maximize your catch. If you want to throw artificials, use 1/8 to 3/8 ounce jig heads with swim tail plastic baits like the 12 Fathom "Fat Sam Mullet". Jig these just fast enough to keep your lure out of the grass and you should be rewarded. Remember that fish almost always strike as the bait drops so expect to feel the bite as you go to raise your rod to jig the bait. If you want to maximize your chances for success, use big shrimp that are "bobbered" to float about a foot off the bottom. At the top and bottom of stronger tides, think redfish. On days when your tide chart shows a big negative number, plan to be in any fish concentrating pot hole that you can think of. There is definite truth to the saying "fish in a barrel". If you have some favorite redfish flats that have deeper sand holes in them, sink baits into these on the dead low tide when these fish have nowhere else to go. Drop offs at the edge of these same flats will also hold fish, as they stage here and wait for the tide to move back in so they can push back up on the flat to feed. Although our fish numbers are reduced in the winter, catching quality fish is a distinct possibility if you diligently work this plan. Once the tide has pushed up to its highest point for the day, docks and protected backwaters become the target areas. These locations become prime in winter largely because of temperature. Most productive redfish docks have seawalls nearby and sit over black mud bottom, which both effectively absorb heat. Protected backwaters typically have the same dark mud bottoms and their shallow waters heat up much more quickly than the surrounding deeper waters. Expect redfish to seek water that may only be a couple of degrees warmer. "Split shotted" shrimp, pinfish or cut baits, such as ladyfish, are all great offerings for fishing docks. Scent is important. Clipping the tail off of your shrimp or pinfish can only help. Although these baits are equally effective on a backwater flat or shoreline, you may want to use an artificial to cover more area. A 1/8 ounce jig head with a gold or rootbeer colored tail is an effective approach. There are many good tide days still available in February so if you're interested in catching a limit of big winter trout and taking a shot at some backwater redfish, now's the time.

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