What a weird weather pattern we’ve dealt with in November being 5 to 8 degrees warmer than normal and December was similar. A lot of people asked what has this done to the fishing, and here is the answer. The trout bite has been outstanding the past month and January should be very good, as the water temps are in the 60’s–right where the trout like it.
My go-to baits for trout are soft plastics such as a Matrix Shad on a 1/8-ounce jig head or 1/4-ounce jig head, depending upon how deep the water I’m fishing. I also have a 17MR MirrOlure tied on, as well as, a Heddon Spook top-water plug. These three lures are my staples when it comes to speckled trout fishing. I’ve been using them for years and they have never failed me yet.
Now let’s talk redfish. Big schools of reds have moved into Tampa Bay. They have come in the past two years in January, and all I can say is that they are chewing and I’m happy, as is my Bull Bay Banshee, 7’2” fishing rod matched with my Shimano Stradic. They are chewing on a variety of baits, from cut white bait to cut mullet and, if you want to toss artificials, tie on a Heddon Spook or a gold spoon and hang on! Look for pushes in the water and lots of mullet, and you’ll find the reds in depths of 2 to 5 feet of water.
Moving on to sheepshead, the bite has been outstanding on many of the bridge pilings, rock piles and docks in Tampa Bay. Live shrimp and fiddler crabs are the baits of choice. Remember to have a light leader and a small #1 or #2 J hook tied on. I like Gamakatsu, but you can use what you like, or you can use a 1/8 or 1/4-ounce jig head depending upon what the current/tide is doing.
Snook fishing has been slower, and it will be until Spring. The major cold fronts we have in January put the snook in Winter mode. They are very lethargic and they are not feeding much. Once the water warms up, the snook should be back to their usual feeding patterns. Until then, I suggest letting them adjust to the weather change and go after some other species.
As you can see, the fishing is usually very good in January and it will last until the last week of February. As we get closer to spring, everything changes and the snook bite fires off.
Capt. John Rivers operates Rivers to Bay Fishing Charters out of Tampa Bay and Tarpon Springs. With 18 years guiding experience 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