Tampa Fishing Reports

February 2008 Fishing Report

January proved to be one, large weather “roller coaster” with temperatures rising and falling throughout the month. This made fishing challenging, to say the least. Normally, local fishermen have settled into catching sea trout consistently in January, but that was not the case over the last month. Although the trout bite would come and go, and there were some good days, it was far from consistent. As a result, targeting redfish remained part of the fishing strategy all month. As in last month's report, fishing potholes on strong low tides would provide action on some days. If the mornings were cool though, the higher tide, late afternoon bite seemed to produce better. Most of these "high tide" fish were caught around residential docks. Another observation made over the last few weeks was that, when the temperature dipped back into the fifties, the redfish would become much more finicky, refusing artificial baits entirely and eating natural baits like shrimp and cut bait only occasionally. Usually, if you find redfish, you catch redfish, but the bite was slow on cold mornings. As we move into February and our tides start to gain a little strength, look for the redfishing to improve. For the most action, but not necessarily size, work residential docks with shrimp until you find a few docks that produce. Keep these locations to yourself and you may be able to catch fish off of them for a few weeks. If you want to catch the big boys, work proven flats with weighted Gulp 5 inch Jerk Shads or baits such as pinfish, shrimp or cut bait. If the last week in January was any indication, February’s trout fishing should improve. The last few trips of the month started to show a more consistent bite off of the spoil islands and on some of the better flats. Although a “bobbered” live shrimp still rates as the number one bait, your favorite ¼ ounce jig and plastic tail may increase your fish count. Until the trout really bunch up, covering a lot of water may be more important than using the best bait. On a charter a week ago, a school of about twenty trout was spotted. One angler threw jigs, the other live shrimp and pinfish. The jig fisherman quickly landed three fish in succession. The bait angler didn’t get bit. So not only are jigs effective in locating fish, sometimes they are eaten as readily or better than live shrimp. When you are working a jig and catch a fish, throw back to the same spot. If you catch another, anchor up as you have probably located a nice school of fish. As far as jig colors are concerned, darker greens, browns and root beer are popular colors. Chartreuse and pink work on some days as well. Bottom line… use the color that you have the highest level of confidence in. As snook will not be targeted for another six weeks or so, the last inshore species to target right now would be sheephead. In February, near shore rock piles and residential docks can “load up’ with these fish. While running a line of docks recently in search of redfish, two of said docks were holding six to twelve good sized sheephead. Although these fish can be a bit picky at times, an un-weighted shrimp cast close in to the structure is often rewarded with a quick bite. Small crabs are also well received, but not nearly as available at your local bait store. Sheephead will provide you with fine table fare but have your knife sharpener handy as cleaning a pile of sheephead becomes a real workout with a dull knife. So, for the most success in the coming month, cover a lot of area when looking for both redfish and trout. If you're not getting any action, try a new spot. If you keep moving, you'll eventually find fish and, as is common this time of year, when you find either redfish or trout, there's usually more than one around. Have a great month and enjoy the cooler weather. The heat will be back upon us before you know it.

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