It's Frosty Out There
Capt. Stewart Ames
January 16, 2018
Tampa Bay - Saltwater Fishing Report
The first week in January confirmed that winter will come once again….5 - 6 nights straight with temperatures in the 30's and 40's….more than likely the coldest stretch of nights we'll see this year. From a fishing guide's perspective, that simply translates into a week off. Even the most die hard customers who begged to go fishing were turned away. Although the sheepshead would still bite, catching them in the cold just isn't that much fun. On the bright side, cold fronts tend to bring in a new crop of big seatrout so as soon as things begin to warm, it should be "game on" again. Their favorite bait, whitebait, will likely be scarce for some time as well, so plan on putting in an order for select shrimp before the next fishing outing.
Another very effective way to secure a trout dinner is by throwing plastics on 1/4 ounce jig heads. These baits will be eaten almost as readily as live baits on some days and also allow the angler to cover a lot of water. If fishing a broad area, such as an open flat covered with potholes, get upwind of the target area, start drifting and fan casting ( make sure to target potholes as trout often lay in them). The key to the retrieve is keeping the bait off the bottom (out of the weeds) while still presenting it in a fashion that will trigger a bite. A common retrieve is the double pump retrieve. Cast the bait as far as possible. Take all the slack out of the line as the bait sinks. Right before it gets to the bottom, give the rod a firm double pump motion, making the bait jump up twice. Next, simply reel in the slack that is created by the double pump. Don't reel so much that you are bringing the bait towards the boat. It is as this bait falls back (swims) towards the bottom that all strikes occur. A seasoned angler will feel the bump on the fall and will immediately reel all slack out of the line and set the hook. For those less aware, when an attempt is made to do the next double pump in the retrieve, resistance will be felt and the hook will be set then. Assuming no bite, this double pump sequence is repeated all the way back to the boat. Again, the key is to control the speed of this retrieve so that the bait falls within inches of the bottom and, at the end of the double pump, is close to the surface. Letting the bait get to the bottom will likely kill to cast as the jig will collect grass and become a much less desirable target.
Other species will be available over the course of the month. While targeting trout, bluefish, mackerel and jack crevalle may occasionally be intercepted. Every once in a while, a bonus pompano shows up. Although redfish numbers are definitely down in the winter, methodically fishing residential docks is a productive approach. Some slot fish will be found but, worst case scenario, on most days at least a few undersized redfish will be caught. Sheepshead and small black drum may be found in these same locations. Shrimp should be used while dock fishing as redfish, especially smaller ones, seem to focus on shrimp in the winter and sheepshead and black drum are rarely caught on anything else. Good luck and good fishing.
Tampa Bay Fishing Forecast:
Poor Until Cold Passes. Once this happens however, large seatrout fishing could be on fire.
Seatrout., Redfish, Sheepshead
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