Tampa Bay Fishing Report January 2020 By: Captain Woody Gore

January means low tides, low humidity, pleasant days and decent fishing. Greenbacks begin getting scarce, but shrimp always catches fish. Winter is an excellent time to experiment with artificial lures. So, as winter moves in try your hand tossing a few artificial lures around a Tampa Bay broken bottom grass flat.

Look for snook in canals, rivers and creeks–especially those with structure receiving heat from the sun. On bright sunny days, check broken-bottom grass flats with large sandy potholes because they are the ticket for snook. As the water cools, snook tend to migrate to these areas for protection from colder waters. You often find them sunning themselves in shallow sandy areas. Do not forget the bridges, pilings and the deep-water docks along the Hillsborough, Alafia, Little Manatee and Manatee Rivers. They are decent places to start if you are looking for some larger linesiders. Try finger mullet, small ladyfish, pins and jumbo shrimp. Do not forget topwater lures early in the morning or jigs and soft plastics as the sun comes up.

January is excellent fishing for redfish. You often find schools of reds cruising around the flats near Weedon Island, Double Branch, Port Manatee Old Ferry Dock Flats and Joe’s Island. Larger fish, over thirty inches, work the outer edges and channels on low water. Serious redfish anglers discovered redfish love hanging with mullet because, as mullet feed on tiny sea plants and sea lettuce, they stir up food for the redfish.  Distinguishing the difference between the wake of schooling mullet and redfish is something you need to learn. Redfish wakes are usually higher than mullet. You might find some excitement by pitching soft plastics around the mangrove tree lines–you never know when a large snook might strike. If you like wading, the low tides associated with winter offer excellent fishing for tailing redfish and others. As you amble along slowly, be sure to shuffle your feet because we get plenty of stingrays this time of year.

Spotted sea trout are drifting the Tampa Bay grass flats. Tossing soft plastic curly tail artificial lures will produce plenty of fun. Look for potholes that hold the larger spotted sea trout. Check the grass flats around Weedon Island, Culbreath Bayou, Pinellas Point, Joe Island, Tarpon Key and Fort Desoto for decent trout action.

Cobia should start showing up with the cooler water temperatures. Check out the hot water runoffs at local power plants. Jumbo shrimp, small crabs or pinfish work. If you are interested in artificial lures, try a large worm bait about 8 to 10 inches long rigged on a jighead. Cobia cannot resist anything resembling an eel.

You can find sheepshead and mangrove snapper around the many fish attractors and rock piles located throughout Tampa Bay. Also, check out the bridges and deep-water docks of residential canals. Try using shrimp, fiddler or small rock crabs, green mussels or oysters. Scrape the pilings to get them going.