Tampa Bay Report By: Capt. Woody Gore

Snook fishing is one of those on and off again things in the cooler months. It also depends on the bait situation. Snook do seem to be making a recovery. The size being caught is average to small, but if the season remains closed the larger fish will come. 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 circle hooks and leader. As temperatures drop, target snook in deep water canals, rivers and creeks with deep muddy bottoms.

Redfish and snook are still catch and release until May 10, 2019. When the cooler weather shows up, the algae dies off, and the clearer waters can trigger some good site fishing. Also, the low winter tides make red fishing a shallow-water angler’s dream. As usual, the reds are hanging in mullet schools, so chunk in some cut or live bait. If you like walking shallow-water in waders, be sure to toss a few artificials into those sandy pot holes. There is also some exciting action when pitching soft plastics or MirrOLure topwater lures around the mangroves. Redfish tend to be more active during tide changes.

For spotted sea trout, take an incoming or outgoing tide, add a MirrOLure Top Dog lure and start walking it across the surface of a broken bottom grass flat. Don’t forget the old standby live shrimp or a DOA under a popping cork. The trout population is getting stronger and some larger ones are showing up. Don’t forget to put a few back since those over 20 inches are the breeders.

Docks and other structure around Tampa Bay are holding snapper, especially the south end around the Skyway. Florida and Federal regulations require all anglers using natural baits and targeting any reef species including snappers, in Gulf waters and inshore waters (which includes Tampa Bay) must use in-line circle hooks. Be sure they are not off-set hooks, since hook manufacturers make both kinds.

Sheepsheads are found around bridges, oyster bars and deep-water docks. Try using green mussels, fiddlers (if you can find them), small black rock crabs, shrimp or oysters and scrape the pilings to get them going. Over the years, depending on the depth and current, I’ve found a slip sinker rig very effective in catching snapper or sheeps.

Here’s my slip sinker rig. First, attach a 15 to 30-inch Seaguar Premier fluorocarbon leader directly to Seaguar 20-pound Smackdown Braided main line. Next comes a small soft glow bead, egg sinker (size depending on depth and current), another small soft glow bead and finally a 1/0 Daiichi in-line circle hook. The soft glow beads allow the leader to slip freely through the egg sinker without sticking on the leader-to-braid or leader-to-hook knots. This allows the bait to be held directly on the bottom and, if using live bait, it can swim free of the sinker.

Cooler temps should push the cobia into or near warm water run offs at local power plants. When fishing these restricted areas be sure to adhere to the rules.