What Christmas Means to Me By: Capt. Sergio Atanes

Christmas has many meanings for each one of us. It’s family time with our relatives, the kids are home from college and a good time to bond with old friends.  Christmas is also a time to thank God for our health, family and giving us such a great country we live in with freedom.

Now having said all of this, December brings many surprises to anglers of Tampa Bay and it all depends on the weather.  If it’s a warm month, we can count on large schools of redfish around the many mangrove islands and trout on the shallow flats.  A warm month can keep many species such as mackerel and cobia in our bay waters which are usually gone by mid-November.

A cold December is a different story. Look for redfish around deep water docks. Use live shrimp with a 1/0 circle hook and a small split shot about six inches from the hook. This keeps the bait close to the bottom where the water is warmer and the fish are most active.

Flounder is another species you can count on around docks this time of year. For flounder, I prefer using a small jig head with a small live shrimp hooked through the tail (not the head) and dragged along the bottom.  Cast the jig towards the shoreline parallel to the dock and bounce it along the bottom until you reach the front of the dock. Continue this method on both sides of the dock going from one dock to another. This allows you to cover the entire area around a dock where the flounder are waiting on their prey.

Snook would have made their way up the rivers and creeks looking for warmer water. Remember that snook slow down on their bite this time of year. Cut bait works great on the bottom.  Live medium shrimp with the tail cut off is another great bait to use. I prefer to use a small split shot to keep the bait on the bottom. In many cases I will work the shrimp along the edges of the river or creek bed where the snook are most likely to be waiting for food.

Warm water outflow from the different power plants will be another heaven for snook, cobia, trout and sharks.  The best time to fish the outflow is just before sunrise to about 11 am. As the sun gets higher in the sky, the fish tend to move to the mouth of the hot water outflow. I suggest you start as close as you can to the outflow and work your way through the channel as the sun rises.

The cold water means clear water. You will need to drop down on the size of your leader and tackle to help increase the bite. I notice in cold water months, I have to down size my leader. In some cases, down to 15 pounds in order to get the fish to bite.  I would start with 25-pound test fluorocarbon leader and work down from there until you find what’s working for you.  The lighter leader means you have to take a little more time in fighting the fish, but the increase on the number of bites is well worth it.

Sheepshead will be making their entry into Tampa Bay to spawn as the water temperature drops. This I will cover in next month’s issue.