If the weekly cold fronts are still here, fishing can be difficult if you don’t have a plan. The snook are still in their backwater winter homes. The redfish will get lockjaw after a front and the trout can be hit or miss on the flats. You have to adjust your plan, if you want to put a bend in your rod. Luckily, there are options.
Some of the biggest negative tides of the year are in the winter months. This will trap the fish in the potholes and channels. Live shrimp are a best bet. For artificials, go with a soft body jig or a suspending bait like a MirrOlure. The water is crystal clear this time of year, so don’t be afraid to drop down on your leader to 15-pound fluorocarbon.
Another best bet is fishing the many residential docks that line the bay. Sheepshead, black drum, redfish, trout, flounder and snapper will stack up under the docks and can provide nonstop action. The additional bonus is that many of the docks are protected from the harsh winds.
Again, live shrimp are your best bet. Soft body jigs like Gulp can fill the cooler as well. When fishing the docks, pay attention to the direction of the current. Make your presentation in the direction of the flow. Live shrimp should be freelined with the addition of a small split shot, if needed. Throw lures up current and work them slowly back toward the structure.
The final option is targeting sheepshead. As mentioned, they will be found at residential docks, but the hot action will be at area bridges. The Skyway, Dick Misner and Gandy bridges are famous for both big fish and hot action. Knocker rigged shrimp, both live or dead, cut in pieces are a popular choice. Fiddler crabs and barnacles also work well. Use the smallest hooks, lightest line and weights you can. The sheepshead are notorious bait stealers. Sometimes when you feel the bite, it’s too late. That’s why they wear stripes. They earned the nickname “convict fish” for a reason.
Just remember, don’t let the cool weather keep you at home. If you adjust your game plan, the fishing can be red hot. Now, it’s time to take these tips and get out there and fish!
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