Happy New Year!
The transition to wintertime fishing is here. The steady passing of fronts, north winds and steadily falling air and water temperatures changed the inshore game. The fish of early December are in other locations. It becomes a searching game, going to areas different from where the action was so strong all through the Fall.
The targets are going to be consistent throughout the next few months to come. Trout, redfish, silver trout, whiting and sheepshead will be easy to get. Flounder? Time will tell. Currently there are many to be caught but they may evacuate with this cooling down of the water. Redfish are trout are scurrying into areas well inside Tampa Bay. Lately, deeper has been better for trout. Areas that are seasonal favorites have not necessarily been strong for trout. But they will be nearby. Trying areas that are considerably deeper is a good choice if you do not locate trout in the usual places
Silver trout and whiting are piled up in areas just inside passes, along boat channels and the swashes off the beaches. Sheepshead have been on the flats but the masses will be on all the docks, bridges, rockpiles and seawalls throughout the region. All other species will eat lures but sheepshead requires a natural bait. Same as with lures, I like to use the minimum weight possible when sending a bait down to sheepshead haunts. One to two split shots up about a foot from a size 2 hook: Let the bait settle to the bottom and wait for the line to start to move. It will not be unusual to catch some redfish and black drum while fishing for sheepshead.
Lure choices for the other species: The 12 Fathom SlamR probably outfishes the 3-inch mullet this time of year but both will usually get strikes. I prefer jigs or other subsurface lures to topwater options during the coldest time of the year. But if there is a good trend of mild weather, don’t hesitate to pull out a MirroMullet XL or a Top Dog Jr and see what rises for it. The same mild spells may push fish back into the shallower areas for periods of time.
Beating the cold is the biggest obstacle. Dress in layers with the top layer something waterproof. Keeping moisture away from the skin, you will not be miserable and can get in on the great action of January!