Rivers To Bay Report By: Capt. John Rivers

February fishing usually starts out by fishing deeper water, because it’s been cold most of January. As the month progresses, we will be moving into shallower water. Of course, if it stays cold in February, then you’ll still be fishing deep water for most species like snook, redfish, trout and sheepshead.

Let’s talk bait for a minute. If it’s been cold, then white bait is hard to get on the markers and even at the Skyway some days. So, this time of year we’re using shrimp. I target speckled trout and sheepshead for the most part in February. Depending upon how warm it’s been will determine how well the snook bite will be. Usually, the snook are up in the rivers this time of year or near the mouths of the rivers. Live shrimp and white bait are the baits of choice for snook, but you can even use cut bait like mullet and threadfin.

Sheepshead fishing is outstanding in February. I like using an 1/8 to ¼-ounce jig or a live bait J hook (Gamakatsu #2 hook, #220409.) When using just the J hook, I’ll use a small split shot lead and depending upon how strong the current is will determine how heavy a split shot I’ll use. My leader is usually 20-pound test, but sometimes I’ll step it down to 15 pounds. Sheepshead will be on deep rock piles, jetties, bridges and docks. The baits I like to use for sheepshead are live or fresh dead shrimp, fiddler crabs and sand fleas.  Just remember, these crafty convicts are known to be bait stealers. So, be aware and when you feel the slightest tug that means they usually have the bait in their mouth–give it a good yank and you’ll usually hook up. Get ready for a bit of tug of war; they pull hard, are fun fighters and very good eating. Some of the best tasting filets come from a February sheepshead.

Trout fishing is also outstanding in February. I’ve had some of my best trout fishing trips in February and mostly on artificials. Here are just a few lures I like to toss for trout on the flats in February. I always start out with a Matrix Shad on a 1/8 or ¼-ounce jig head–depending upon how deep the water is I’m fishing. I also have a 17MR MirrOlure tied on, as well as, a Heddon Spook top-water. Just having these three lures tied on will ensure you a productive day, and you can work water depths from 1 to 15 feet for trout.

Lastly, you don’t need to start out early morning in February to go fishing. I usually hit the water around 10am if it’s chilly out, and 8am if it’s been a bit warmer. I like to let the water warm up a bit when fishing in February.  Remember to watch the tides, as you must have moving water. If you don’t have good water flow, eat a sandwich until the tide starts moving and then go catch’em up.

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