December in Tampa Bay is known for great trout fishing, fun sheepshead fishing and even the fair-weather snook, which have moved up into the rivers. Redfish are still milling through the flats, docks and ledges along drop offs. We get a lot of cold fronts this time of year, and you have to pick your days to fish in between the fronts, or you’re going to be fishing on a windy day. However, the advantage to fishing Tampa Bay is that even when it’s blowing out, you have many areas to hide behind the mangroves or just go up in the rivers to have a very productive day on the water. Just make sure you’re bundled up but, then again, you never know what the temperature is going to be in December here. I’ve worn shorts on Christmas day on Tampa Bay, so each year is different. When we get a strong cold front, it usually takes the fish a day or two to adjust if the water temps drop more than a few degrees.
The bait should be still around on the flats or on the markers, which is a plus, but sometimes when it gets really cold, it can be hard to find. I always have a backup plan, and wintertime is when I may have to change the strategy for how I’m going to catch these fish.
I will typically have a livewell full of frisky shrimp for the sheepshead and other species if I’ve been having trouble finding the bait. But, since I really enjoy tossing artificials, December is a great time to do that. The nice thing about wintertime fishing is that you don’t have to start out at daylight and, sometimes it’s actually better to let the sun heat things up, which is when the fish become more active.
The sheepshead love the cooler temps, but just make sure you have moving water. I like the first two hours of either the outgoing or incoming tides. Trout will definitely be on as well, and I recommend either live shrimp or soft plastics (4 inch paddle tails on a 1/4oz jig). Again, pursue snook up in the rivers and, if you bring a live well of pilchards, you’ll keep the rod bent all day. Lastly, stop off at a few docks for the reds. They may be looking for a free meal to get them through the holidays.
Before the year ends, take a few days off from the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and go splash the boat.
Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Bent Rods,
Tight Lines… Capt. John.
Capt. John Rivers operates Rivers To Bay Fishing Charters out of Tampa Bay and Tarpon Springs. With 18 years guiding experince and over 40 years of fishing knowledge, he can assure you a professional / fun fishing adventure. Single or multi boat trips available. www.tampabayinshoreguides.com