Tampa Bay By: Capt. Woody Gore

Tampa Bay Fishing Report February 2017

It’s finally 2017 and we’re probably going to get some of our coldest temperatures this month and next.

As the water temperatures drop fishing will most likely get tough. Part of the reason fewer fish are caught this time of year is because fishermen are too cold to fish effectively, or the winds make it difficult. It’s sort of the same reasons that cold fronts seem to slow things down; it’s more a matter of the how tough the angler is rather than can they get the fish to bite.

Dress to be as comfortable and safe as possible. Try to stay out of the wind by fishing sheltered locations. Fishing out of the wind makes boat control and lure presentation much easier.

Here are some tips for winter fishing.

Fish tend to school together as water temperatures drop, so you can catch a large number of them in the same spot. Also cold weather tends to pull them out of the shallow water and send them looking for deeper water, usually in creeks and canals with muddy bottoms and docks.

Their metabolism slows so they eat less food and are willing to take smaller lures and baits. Because of their sluggish metabolism fish slow down, so make your presentation unhurried and accurate. I’ve found that with smaller greenbacks a very slow deliberate reel seems to trigger more strikes.

There are plenty of fish to catch during the winter months, all you have to do is go fishing. This time of the year we get big jack crevalle, blue fish, mackerel, sheepshead, snapper, orange mouth grunts and the list goes on. Just put on your jacket, get your rod and reel and head out for a fun day on Tampa Bay.

Fishing is one of those on and off again things in the cooler months which also depends on the sardine situation (if you’re using live bait). If you can get live baits you’re ahead of the game. Greenbacks off the flats usually run smaller during the cooler months, so downsize your hooks and leader. Keep in mind that as the temperatures drop, to look for deep water canals, rivers and creeks with muddy bottoms.

Incoming or outgoing tides and a topwater lure produce awesome trout strikes on a calm early morning flat. Of course the old standby, a live shrimp under a popping cork always results in fish.

The trout population is strong and we have been landing some large trout. The 20 plus inch fish seem to be more plentiful than in the past few years. So, if you’re looking for some nice trout action, don’t forget to check out grass and rock bottoms with some artificial jerk baits. Many times you’d be surprised at the results.

As cooler weather approaches the algae dies and the waters begin clearing. This triggers some fairly decent sight fishing for the much sought after redfish. Low tides and clear water make sight fishing reds a shallow water anglers dream.

We’re also catching reds in mullet schools using cut, live bait and also artificial lures as well. So, you can also expect some exciting strikes when pitching soft plastics or top water’s around the mangroves on high incoming tides. Winter patterns also include pitching shrimp and artificial lures around deep water residential docks.

Grouper and snapper fishing has been very good despite the recent tighter regulations. Going out and catching a lot of bottom fish never seems to be a problem, even the nearshore bite is doing well.

However, keeping up with all the rules and regulations can be a pain. It doesn’t seem reasonable to spend the money on gas to run far offshore grouper and snapper fishing with all the new limits and closures.

Recreational gag grouper season is closed from January 1 through May 31. Red Grouper season is closed from February 1 through May 31.

Other Shallow-water Groupers include black grouper, yellow-mouth grouper, scamp and yellowfin grouper. These species are closed from February 1 to May 31. Red snappers are closed from Jan 1 – May 31.

The cooler temps should push cobia into the warm water runoffs of local power plants. Be certain to adhere to the restricted areas.

Don’t forget to check the shallow water beach edges adjacent to the runoffs because cobia like migrating to and from the warm water along the shorelines.

If you’re looking for sheepshead try checking around bridges, oyster bars and deep water docks. Use mussels, fiddlers (if you can find them), small black rock crabs, shrimp or oysters. Remember you can scrape the oyster covered pilings as chum to get them going.

“Give Me a Call & Let’s Go Fishing” – 813-477-3814 Captain Woody Gore is the area’s top outdoor fishing guide. Guiding and fishing the west central Florida areas for over fifty years; he offers world class fishing adventures and a lifetime of memories.

Multi-boat and Group Charters: With years of organizational experience and access to the areas most experienced captains, Captain Woody can arrange and coordinate any outing or tournament. Just tell him what you need and it’s done.  WWW.CAPTAINWOODYGORE.COM, Email: fishing@captainwoodygore.com or give him a call at 813-477-3814.