Flats to Nearshore Report By: Capt. Gary Burch

February 2018 Fishing Tips and Forecast

Even with temperatures on the colder side this month, there will be nice, sunny Florida days that warm the waters on the inshore flats of Clearwater and Dunedin.

Our February fishing days will depend on how many cold fronts push through the area and wreak havoc on our weather.  But have no fear, the Florida sunshine will give us some fantastic fishing days.


January and February have some extremely low tides that create an excellent opportunity to find fish. Cold fronts will push through every week or two and sometimes even twice a week. These weather conditions will produce extreme low tides especially around a new or full moon. The strong northwest and northeast winds push a lot of water out of Clearwater and Dunedin bays and at low tide expose grassy bottoms and oyster beds in the back waters, canals and mangrove cuts. The deeper holes adjacent to these high and dry areas may be holding lots of fish, so don’t frown going fishing on a low tide, while checking out the deeper areas, you may find your honey hole.

Take this time to get out and search your favorite trout and redfish areas. Always add some new locations because trout can move a quarter of a mile from the last time you found them. The otimal condition for catching redfish and trout is a high tide in the afternoon at the warmest part of the day. As the water moves up on the sun baked flats, it could be three to five degrees warmer. The fish will be more active in this warmer water and catching a gator trout or an oversized redfish should be a lot easier.

Redfish and trout have been our targets this winter and when found, they are very lethargic and spooky. A very stealthy approach should be used at every location.

I’ve had good results catching gator trout in Clearwater Bay using sixteenth of an ounce jigheads with CAL shad tails in darker colors and Mister Twister paddle tails in root beer with sparkle.  Your favorite tackle shop has a huge selection of the most popular artificials for catching redfish and trout.

The key to catching gator trout on artificials is to drift along spotty grass and sand areas, like the ones north of Dunedin Causeway, making long cast and retrieving very slowly. Let that jig brush along the bottom and through the grass. Also, let the jig stop for a few seconds before continuing, most likely the strike will come at this moment. Fish are not going to move very far or too quickly in the colder water to feed, slow it down and take your time.

Redfish will be scattered in shallow water flats next to land areas and mangroves in the Dunedin area. If you find them at lower tides in the deeper holes, follow the fish as they move up on the flats and closer to oyster beds as the tide rises. The bite is slow, but they should eat a live shrimp, cut bait or a variety of artificials.

Don’t let cold fronts keep you high and dry, after the front passes; we usually have the best weather in the country. There is plenty of opportunity to get out and catch fish during the winter months.
Capt. Gary Burch owns and operates All Catch Charters and specializes in live baits and artificials. He’s a professional inshore, flats and backcountry guide, fishing from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs. To reach Capt. Gary for a charter, please call 727 458-6335