I hope this report finds everyone well after the holidays and as we move into the New Year!
January brings some of Florida’s coldest weather of the year and with that comes an influx of cold fronts almost weekly. This makes staying on fish patterns challenging but also rewarding.
Redfish are getting the spotlight this month, as they school up and roam the flats in search of food, the winter is a great time to target them. Once you find a particular school of redfish, or schools, in an area, it is likely they will remain in that area for a given time such as a week or even for the month so long as they have similar, recurring environmental factors. There is a reason, or number of reasons they are there, so once I find a school I make mental notes of why they chose this particular area. I look at the depth I found them in and the water temperature/clarity. I look at what stage of the tide it is as well as a presence of bait, mullet, and any wading birds. After I’ve taken as much of my surroundings into focus as possible, I try piecing the puzzle together as to when they will be here again for my next outing or trip.
Recently the redfish I have found have been pushed in tight to the shallow sandy bottoms around spoil islands and mangrove lines, looking for a little extra warmth, as the sand heats up first when the sun gets up in the sky. This is also a great time to look for these fish tailing the shallows trying to uncover crabs and shrimp in the grass flats. There is still some bait around the flats as the water has held at a fairly constant 63-65 degrees, but the majority of wintertime bait is still sitting deep around Tampa Bay, including the north and south piers of the Skyway Bridge. The snook bite has been stellar when you take the time to catch bait first, but they are also picking up live shrimp free-lined or under a popping cork with haste as well.
The Snapper and sheepshead have been steady around docks and bridges this month.However, just as I have found this year with tripletail, the sheepsheads still don’t seem to be inside the bay in full force. The inshore bite has remained great both before and after these steady cold fronts, so get out there and try your luck!
Good luck and good fishing,