The sheepshead migration/spawn is in full swing in Tampa Bay. Better known as convicts (I call them bait stealers), these tasty bucktooth critters can be a lot of fun to catch in February and the first couple of weeks in March. The sheepshead run started early this year, in mid-January, due to a couple of really cold, cold fronts that came through.
Sheepshead is very tasty, both on the grill and fried. Mix it up with rice and beans, and you can’t go wrong. So, if you have a chance, go to the local tackle store that has bait, grab four dozen shrimp and go bend some rods!
Next on the menu is mangrove snapper. They, too, have been pretty plentiful on some of my honey holes. I’ve not got into the big ones, but I have been getting keepers from 14 to16 inches. Get a few of those in the ice chest and you’ll have a nice snapper sandwich for sure.
Now, let’s talk redfish and snook. With the warmer than normal Winter, the redfish bite in Tampa Bay has been pretty good. Snook has also been good. You just have to know where to look for both species. Live bait has been the ticket for reds and snook. But don’t fret, if you like tossing artificials, you’ll still get a few–the better bite has been on white bait. Depths of the fish have ranged from 2 to 4 feet of water. Watch the tides and let the drag sing.
Last, let’s talk specks. The trout bite has been excellent in the rivers in upper and lower Tampa Bay. I’ve done well on 1/4-ounce jigheads matched up with a Matrix Shad in either Lemon Head or Kamikaze. This bait is from Louisiana, and I don’t think they’ve seen it because they fall for it every time.
I fish both Tampa Bay and the St. Joseph Sound next to Clearwater Beach. If you’re on Clearwater Beach, you’re only 10 minutes from where I launch. If you want to fish Tampa Bay, it’s only 30 minutes from your hotel, and you’re fishing after a short boat ride to the flats.
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