Well where do I begin? The inshore bite in Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor has been hot and cold, literally! The key to finding success has been timing your trip to coincide with the warmer weather days in between the cold fronts. My better trips have been after the fronts blow through and as a warming trend begins. These days are typically less windy as well so it’s a win-win. On such trips the main target has been trout. I like to leave snook alone as much as possible during the dead of winter due to them already being stressed by the lower water temps. Drifting the flats in the 3-5ft depths and throwing small paddle tails, bucktail jigs and shrimp under corks has been most productive. If you’re specifically targeting the big gator trout then I’d suggest fishing as shallow as you can as stealthily as you can and use small finesse baits. If I must go when the wind is blowing, and the weather is crappy then fishing in the protection of residential canals is my go to. Fishing seawalls and docks with shrimp is producing catches of sheepshead, trout, redfish, snapper and grouper. Another good wintertime tactic is to look for areas with a dark bottom. It will retain heat from the sun and warm the water more than areas with light bottom which reflects the sun’s rays.
The sheepshead bite has been good and will continue to be as they gather in large numbers on pieces of structure in preparation for their spawn. The FWC commission recently voted to draft new rules for sheepshead. If passed the new rules will reduce the current limit of 15 per person down to 5. The proposal will be brought back in April for a final public hearing. I personally support the reduction to insure the continued health of the fishery.
I have select dates available for spring inshore fishing charters and have begun to book tarpon charters for the upcoming season. Tarpon dates are filling quickly. If you’d like an opportunity to fish in the Tarpon Capital of the World for the greatest inshore fish that swims call me now.
Capt. Bobby Woodard