The weekly cold fronts have arrived. This can make fishing difficult if you don’t have a plan. The snook have begun to move to their backwater winter homes. The redfish will get lockjaw after the 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 coming up. This will trap the fish in the potholes and channels. Live shrimp are a best bet. For artificial, go with a soft body jig or a suspending bait like a Mirro-lure. The water is crystal clear this time of year. Don’t be afraid to drop down on your leader to 15-pound flouro.
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 many of the docks are protected from the harsh northern 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 free lined with the addition of a small splits if needed. Throw the lures up current and work them slowly back towards the structure. Winter fishing is all about slowing things down. If you’re cold, the fish are too.
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 all are famous for both big fish and hot action. Knocker rigged shrimp, both live and dead and cut in pieces, are a popular choice. Fiddler crabs and barnacles also work well. Use the smallest hooks and lightest line and weights you can get away with. 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 cold weather keep you at home. If you adjust your game plan, the fishing can be red hot. A good place to buy your tackle is St. Pete Fishing Outfitters.
Now it’s time to take these tips and get out there and fish!