The red tide, long gone. The action: Normalized.
Action has held up great in the lower part of Tampa Bay. Just that extra few miles south from so many areas that have a bigger “cold night impact” on the fishing, things will be strong even if a cooler trend continues.
Late February means peak time for sheepshead action. Every seawall, rockpile and bridge piling will have sheepshead. The numbers appear to be very good again this year. Crustacean style baits are important. Rarely caught on lures, the sheepshead on the open flats can be caught on a fly but this is pretty much a “shrimp or fiddler crab” thing. These baits, dropped to the structure with the minimum weight needed to keep it against the structure allows the sheepshead to eat it and easily swim off with the bait, “hook, line and sinker”. I believe that is the best time to set the hook, when you feel the line start to move. I just don’t really do much “hook baiting.” But it is an option for good action.
Speckled trout and redfish are great targets on the south shore. Trout have finally come around. A strange winter, bigger specimens are finally being caught where they had been mysteriously absent. Throwing 12 Fathom soft plastic lures is a great way to catch both species. I like the SlamR for big gator trout and the 3-inch Mullet for redfish. Redfish have been “out front” but with this cold snap, they may move into muddy bottom areas away from the main shorelines of Tampa Bay.
Flounder, virtually absent, An influx of even more will come when the baitfish migration happens. Will it be March? April? Or later? The south Skyway Pier will be a mecca for Spanish mackerel when that baitfish arrives. The Silly Willy/Teaser rig is the best kept secret for hammering a limit of mackerel. And it is much easier than slinging and cranking those spoons. That action is literally right around the corner. Go to Paul Bristow’s Skyway report to get info on what’s coming over the rails at the piers.
Pompano have remained an option through these months. Usually down toward Sarasota Bay, it has stayed warm enough to keep these fish inside Tampa Bay.
As always: Be careful out there!