Sheepshead have made their way to the Tampa Bay bridges and docks. They are well known for their dominant presence during the winter months. Historically, their numbers peak in February. They can be found at any of the Tampa Bay bridges, docks, seawalls and jetties. I always head to my favorite mangrove snapper spots this time of year to find them. Sheepshead desire the same structure and environment as mangrove snapper. Most of the time, when fishing these areas, you will catch more sheepshead than snapper just because of their great numbers during these months.
Choice baits to use are live shrimp and fiddler crabs. These baits should be presented on a size 1/0 hook free-lined, rigged with a split shot or your favorite 1/8 to ¼-ounce jighead. Where there’s one, there are a bunch. Keeping count is important when catching these guys, because you can fill a cooler quickly when the bite is right.
Another species to target this month are spotted seatrout. These hungry shallow water predators can be found stacked up anywhere that has a drop in depth adjacent to a sandbar, or sandy patches and potholes on grass flats. Take advantage of the mild water temperatures, as the fish are more active. The baits I use for spotted seatrout are scaled sardines and live shrimp. Both baits are presented on a size 1/0 hook and free-lined. You can sight cast or drift fish these baits. Livingston Lures Schoolmaster or Highwater Lures “Get em Shad” are my top choice artificials to use, if you desire to cover a large area in a small amount of time.