Tampa Fishing Reports

December 2008 Fishing Report

A strong cold front arrived early in November, sending kingfish south and scattering the redfish. With several more cold fronts late in the month, it is clear that cooler water is here to stay and the larger schools of summer redfish will not be back until next spring. Quality fish are still available but are usually found traveling alone or in smaller groups...maybe three to ten fish. These fish will seek the warmer waters of dark bottomed backwaters, bayous and canals. Residential docks and shorelines that get morning sun are also logical places to try. Occasionally you will find the mother load" of fish under a dock in the winter, but this occurs less frequently than during warmer months. Baits of choice include shrimp, pinfish, cut bait or scented artificial baits. Rig all of these with a big enough split shot to hold them in the desired area. Clipping the tail off of your live baits will put additional scent in the water...always a plus when fishing for redfish. Remember to be patient as fish may take more time to home in on your bait in this colder water. Most of the areas mentioned above "fish" better on the top half of the incoming tide. One exception to this incoming tide rule would be potholes in the grass flats. On extreme low tides, don't forget to prospect the deepest holes. Fish have no choice but to pull off of the flats on these extreme low tides and move to this deeper water. Once the water begins to flood back onto the flat around the pothole, it's time to move on as the redfish will be doing the same. Our premature cold weather has hastened the arrival of our big winter sea trout. In the last few weeks, these fish have moved in on our local grass flats and can be caught using a variety of methods. Shrimp and pinfish are rarely refused. The best approach is to fish these baits on a bobber, leaving the bait elevated a foot or so off of the bottom. In deeper water, free lining can also be effective. If you're prospecting a new area, throwing plastic "swim tails" such as Bass Assassin Sea Shad on a quarter ounce jig head can be a great way to locate trout. Position yourself on the upwind side of your intended fishing area and make as long a cast as you can. Allow the jig to sink close to the bottom and then lift the rod tip so the jig jumps up. Let the jig sink again, reeling in your slack line in the process and repeat this action until your retrieve is complete. Fish will strike on the drop so, if you feel weight when you pick up, immediately reel and set the hook. Flats that hold trout almost always have sand potholes interspersed with the grass, so look for this type of bottom. Fish will sit in the sand holes so cast into all of the holes that you see. More often than not, when you hook a trout there will be another in the same area so anchor or slow your drift to allow additional casts. Once you discover a productive flat, take note as trout will return to the same flats year after year. Over the course of the last month, near shore rocks piles and ledges continued to provide sport on a variety of fish...including mangrove snapper, grouper, mackerel, bluefish, flounder and the occasional bull redfish. Although this action will begin to taper off, the near shore grouper fishing should remain strong into December. Cobia will also be available in the warm outflows of our local power plants. These fish will show one day and not the next so some effort may be required to find them but landing one of these big fish on a light rod is always exciting. The real game for December though is seatrout. The abundance of large specimens available makes this month one of the best times of the year to pursue these gator trout. A tough day might yield a half dozen fish...a great day might yield forty...with most fish measuring between 17 and 24 inches. Trout are a great species to target on a family fishing day as they provide plenty of action...and, with a little luck, you may find a few big redfish to take home for dinner as well. Good luck and good fishing.

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