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J. Addington On December - 16 - 2010

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Fishing Tampa Bay In The Winter

  Bay area anglers know Tampa Bay has miles of backcountry, mangrove lined shores, canals & rivers as well as power plants with warm water outflows. But did you know in the winter months Snook and other species of fish use these areas to escape to water where the temperature is a little warmer? Okay, so you knew that too. Well you must also know just having this bit of information increases your odds of finding solid places to hook up in the winter because now you are beginning to form a picture of what to look for when targeting them. Additional knowledge of other species of fish will also greatly increase your odds of bagging a trophy when others are fishing in the wrong spot, with the wrong bait, on the wrong tide.

  And bay area anglers never end up like that. Do we?

  Well, we shouldn’t. Not with a kick ass website like this one shoveling out the down & dirty on fishing the bay area. This article isn’t going to be any different. I want to help you catch more fish this winter. So without wasting anymore time let’s get a look at three of the best fish to target in the Tampa Bay area during the winter months.

Commit These Profiles To Memory

   The Snook
snook    The snook is arguably the most coveted inshore fish species. These beasts reside in the backcountry in the winter months even as far inshore as the peace river up into Desoto County. They are in search of warmer water because cold water can kill them.

Snook are carnivores and their prey is mainly a wide range of species of fish, crabs, and shrimp. The snook hits bait very hard, and often will not let go for a few seconds while he crushes it. A common trait, when hooked, is for a snook to make for the nearest cover or object that can break or cut a line. Snook have a sharp edge to their gill plate and a sharp mouth, which can also cut a line.

When and where do I go to catch them?
Snook cannot tolerate water temperatures below 60 degrees for long. They will be found inshore in coastal and brackish or fresh waters, along mangrove shorelines, seawalls, and bridges. The very best places are warm water areas hit with direct sunlight through most of the day. The back of a dead-end canal where there is little or no water movement are best because they stay warmest the longest. Another tip is to use your boat’s temperature gauge and find the warmest water you can in canals for the best fishing.

What do I use for bait?
Live shrimp, small blue crab/crustaceans, artificials like a mirro lure, DOA shrimp.
View Snook Regulations


   The Redfish
redfish     The redfish or red drum is one of the most coveted inshore fish species. These bruisers congregate in the channels and flats in the winter months, and light tackle is NOT the way to go if you want to catch one. In the winter a lot of the big redfish head off shore to spawn but many stick around and

can still be caught inshore where they tend to group into tight schools. While other species of fish like sea trout and snook become lethargic in the winter, the redfish continue to scour the flats and channels over the course of the day in search of baitfish and shellfish. Find those and you’ll find the reds.

When and where do I go to catch them?
  Knowing when to go and what to look for are key elements to successfully finding redfish in the winter. First let’s answer the question of when to go. This really depends on what time of the day the water begins warming up. In shallow areas the water can see as much as a five degree rise in temperature when the sun is bright and high. A river or bay with a southern entrance will have warmer water near the channel . These are areas you will want to look for baitfish to congregate and shellfish begin moving around. These are the areas you can expect to catch redfish.

What do I use for bait?
   Live shrimp, small blue crab, artificials or piece of shrimp on a jighead.
View Redfish Regulations


   The Seatrout
trout    The Seatrout are an aggressive fish and one of the three fish that make up what is known as a Tampa Slam (Snook and Redfish being the other two). Spotted seatrout reaches sexual maturity at one to two years. Most large spotted seatrout caught are females and

commonly live to be nine or 10 years of age. These fish make for great fun on light tackle and 20" fish are common in the winter. The trick is knowing the best places to find them and when you do be prepared for some top water action!

When and where do I go to catch them?
Nearshore and inshore over grass flats and sandy bottoms seatrout can be found. Where there is a well defined change in water temperature you will likely find trout in the warmer area. Generally these areas are small channels and holes in the flats which also have the added benefit of giving Trout a place to ambush their prey. The closer these holes and small channels are to oysterbeds or wider, deeper channels the more likelihood they contain trout.

What do I use for bait?
Seatrout will strike anything from topwater artificials, spoons, jigs, livebait and various fly patterns.
View Seatrout Regulations


This Information Is Only Half The Battle

  The only way this information can help you is if you are willing to get out there in the elements and apply it. Fishing is as much an art as it is a skill. It takes time to develop techniques and get an eye for the areas most likely to hold fish. Some places I have been to are textbook promising and yet yield nothing and others look like they contain nothing and I have caught some of the biggest fish in my life. But in general…nay, about 90% of the time, the best places for snook, redfish and trout in Tampa Bay are those places described in the profiles above. Apply this knowledge with patience and persistence and it will pay off in spades.

-J. Addington
Bay Area Anglers

Cheers to Captain Tony Frankland and Captain Brian Epperson for their insights.

  • Mike The-Hammer!

    I was thinking about hitting the skyway this weekend. Any pointers?