January 2022

January continues the traditional pattern of a cold front just about every 7 days or so. The water ranges from high 50’s, which I haven’t seen yet this season, to about 73 or so, with the water temp hanging around the mid to upper 60’s for most of the month. Planning for these cold front patterns and tides in January can drastically increase your chances for catching more fish in Tampa Bay. What is biting right now? And, how do I plan my trips? These are two questions I get asked most often in the colder months, when some people are surprised to hear that actually the coldest months of the year can still produce incredible fishing days.

For starters, yes, cold fronts do shut the fish down for a period of time once the front arrives. The rule of thumb I follow says, the two days prior to the front and the 2 days post a cold front are some of the best fishing scenarios you can get in the winter. That time frame, together with a strong tide, will shock you at how aggressive some of the fish will feed in the slower more lethargic months. You’ll notice not even how aggressive just the fish are, but also other wildlife as well. Birds, especially terns, will tirelessly dive after your baits and dolphins will even eat your fish right off the line during a front.

redfish

 Can you still catch fish? Yes, absolutely, but sight fishing is a frustrating and often unproductive way to target our inshore species during a front. Instead, bump off the flats into deeper pockets where these fish will actually congregate in tighter, bigger numbers. You probably won’t get the entire school to feed, but a lot of the times with live bait especially, a few fish in the school can’t resist. Live bait is still all over the flats, which is great, but a little strange for this time of year, although we also haven’t had many lingering cold fronts to keep the water temp down for a long period of time. Our shrimp are colossal right now and plentiful, which is a good go-to for this time of year in getting the lethargic fish to feed. Flounder have become a staple in recent trips and sheepshead fishing is still ramped up. Redfish are being caught in deeper areas during fronts and shallow muddy bottoms before and after the fronts foraging for food. Snook are still around, but many of the big ones have retreated to the creeks and river mouths seeking warmer water.

sheepshead

Happy New Year of fishing and good luck this month!

Capt. Skylar Wilks