St. Pete Report By: Capt. Anthony Corcella

The cold fronts are bringing 40-degree lows to the west coast of Florida. That means more than dressing warm. It means changing gears completely in the days following the fronts. The flats that were just loaded with gamefish are now almost barren of fish. Where did they go? The deeper warmer water of the canals, channels and bigger holes that are all over the Bay.

There is still a hot bite, if you adjust your fishing style. The first thing is to slow it down. The fish still have to eat, but they will be conserving energy and will even be lethargic at times. Working artificial baits at a snail’s pace will usually provide solid hook ups while fishing deeper water. Soft plastics are a proven producer as are appropriate hard baits. The advantage of fishing a hard bait is that there is no need to replace the lure, even after a full day of fishing. In the middle of Winter, our go to hardbait is the MirrOlure Heavy Dean.

This is a proven fish catcher. It gets down deep and stays deep, if you retrieve it at the proper slow pace. Just cast it out and let it sink, give it a twitch and wait. Repeat this action until you’re fighting a big snook, trout or redfish. Top colors for the Bay are whatever makes you feel confident. In general, if we have muddy waters from a North wind, dark colors work best. When the water clears up, switch to one of the live bait patterns. If you think you’re fishing it too slow and not getting bites, then fish it even slower.

Now is a great time to use a fish attractant. Pro-Cure Inshore Blend and Shrimp are top choices for a Winter bite. Apply some every 20 casts or so.

Another thing to remember about Winter fishing is to lighten up the gear. A Shimano Vanford  2500 to 3000 size reel on a custom Kris Green  7-foot 6-inch medium action rod loaded with braid, and a 15-pound fluorocarbon leader will get the trick done in most cases. Bigger fish can be landed on lighter gear this time of year. If fishing the residential docks, bump up to 15-pound braid and 20-pound leader.

For the bait fishing crowd, this is time for shrimp. Go with hand picks or bigger shrimp for snook, big trout and reds. Regular shrimp will add sheepshead, mangrove snapper and flounder to the mix. Pinch the tip of the tail off and use a #1/0 hook with a current appropriate split shot or barrel weight 1/8 to1/4-ounce or a 1/4-ounce jighead and you’ll be cranking them in.

If you would like to learn how to fish the Winter bite in the Bay, book a trip with one of our Captains and get hands on experience. We have multiple boats and Captains to handle from one angler to over 20. Book your trip today.