Tampa Fishing Reports

January 2009 Fishing Report

After a few early cold fronts, December temperatures heated back up again. This kept some of our near shore species, such as grouper and mangrove snapper, more active. With the seatrout season not open until January 1st, many trips that were originally booked to fish trout turned into grouper/snapper trips. A typical day would include catching many short grouper plus one or two keepers and occasionally, limits of mangrove snapper. Both fish are excellent to eat. Plan on having a variety of offerings when heading out on a trip like this. Pinfish, shrimp and frozen sardines will typically give you enough bait selection to get the job done. Start with the oilier baits such as sardines to bring fish around and then switch to the live baits. Fishing lighter tackle, such as medium action spinning rods, can make catching snapper, and the occasional legal grouper, a real challenge. The snapper will require lighter leader (20 - 25 lbs test) and smaller hooks, so come equipped accordingly if you want to take home a few of these for dinner. They also respond better to live baits such as shrimp and small pinfish. Large winter seatrout have been here since late November. Some days produce "wide open" bites, while others require doing some work to catch a half dozen or so nice trout. As a general rule, fishing is always best right before a front comes through and worst right after one arrives so bear this in mind before scheduling your next trip. Also, on busy days such as weekends and holidays, expect these fish to move off of their more predictable locations like proven spoil islands and "well known" flats. Take time to find your own spots so that you don't have to fish in crowded areas. Places to search out include deep holes and less traveled flats with "salt and pepper" bottom. Shrimp remains the best bait for these large winter trout by far. Rig these two to four feet under a bobber and use a 20 lbs. flourocarbon leader and you should catch your share of fish. Throwing plastic jig tails rigged on 1/4 ounce jigheads is another excellent way to catch these fish. You'll also cover lots of water with this technique so it's a great way to prospect some new areas. Redfish are around during our winter months but your summer time tactics will need some modifications. Fish can still be located out on the flats on warmer days but a more dependable approach is targeting docks and backwater areas such as bays, bayous and creeks. Although December has been relatively warm, these fish know that they may only be one day away from a ten degree temperature drop, which keeps them near deeper, dark bottomed areas. Back country areas and docks both tend to have these characteristics. Smell is always a strong factor in bringing a redfish to your bait, but may be even more important during this time of year. Cut baits, cut tail pinfish and cut tail shrimp are all good choices as they will leave a nice scent trail. All of these baits can be presented with a heavy split shot to help you cast more accurately and keep your bait in place. Expect to have to move around a fair amount to find fish. Plan on fishing a dozen spots each time out. Hopefully, you'll find fish in the first or second location but, if not, keep moving until you do. Fishermen who are rewarded with redfish in the winter are typically the ones willing to work a little harder than the rest. If you are really intent on trying to catch a snook this time of year without traveling upriver somewhere you should wait for a warm day, pick a backwater shoreline where you have recently seen snook and throw supsending plugs, such as a Catch 2000 or some of the Yozuri models. You'll need to cover a lot of water but, if the water's warm enough and you've picked the right area, you've got a good shot at catching what you're after. If not, you may well find a few nice redfish or trout. Whatever you do, don't sit at home and wait for winter to be over because there are plenty of fish to catch right now. You just need to pursue what nature will give you. Good luck and good fishing.

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