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The Bite In The Bay: Keep It Slow Snd Steady

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On: Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 9:04AM | By: Captain Woody Gore

The fishing around Tampa Bay’s been hit or miss since the cold fronts keep showing up at seemingly unpredictable intervals. One day it’s cold and overcast with a falling barometer and the fish seem to eat. Then two days later the front passes, skies turn blue, temperatures warm, barometer begins rising, and the fish get lockjaw. However, when the fish are biting it’s been decent with catches including Redfish and a few Snook and Trout.

If you’re looking for greenbacks, they’re not on the grass flats as far as I can find. However, they are at the Skyway Bridge and it’s usually one and done, if you’re quiet setting up under the fishing pier.

On the other hand, winter is a good time to try your hand at artificial lures. Many anglers who never experience the thrill of targeting fish with artificial lures don’t know what they’re missing. It’s fun, exciting and helps you develop a skill that is never lost. Ask any die-hard artificial angler and they will tell you anyone can catch fish with live bait; but if you want to see if your angling skills really match up, let’s see how good you are with plastic. Once you’re hooked (old fishing pun) you’ll love it. It’s fishing at its best, pitching lures into that perfect spot working and watching with heightened anticipation, knowing something is about to happen.

If you’re just not sure about artificials… give it a try. But you must never take live bait along on an artificial trip. “Leave the live bait at the bait shop.” It’s a fact that if you bring along bait and you do not catch a fish in fifteen minutes on artificials, you’ll surely reach for the crutch.

Snook (Closed Season): If live bait is your choice, shrimp fished on a free-line usually entices Snook to bite. However, artificials usually work fine when fished correctly. Soft plastic jerk baits on a 1/8-oz. jig head will also produce good action during the winter. But, remember in the winter… slow it down, never work it too fast. Topwater lures seem to produce better during early mornings. Snook, Redfish, and Trout seemingly cannot resist a walk-the-dog lure on a calm morning flat.

Redfish continue eating, especially the smaller rats. Grass flats with broken bottom, submerged oyster bars and mangrove shorelines like those found around Picnic Island, Simmons Park, Bishop Harbor, Joe Island, Weedon Island, Fourth Street, Cypress Flats, Rocky Point, Double Branch, and Culbreath Isle Flats are good starting points.

Again, artificials work for Redfish. Cut baits, small pinfish, and dead-sticking stinky baits will usually attract their attention. Try suspending stinky baits, cut mullet or chunk of crab, and letting it sit in the water; if a Redfish is in the area he’ll find it.

Spotted Sea Trout are readily found around deepwater flats on strong tides. They eat shrimp, pinfish, and greenbacks. A popper cork proves deadly, at enticing nice Trout, especially when rigged with shrimp, either live or artificial. Also, try bouncing a soft plastic jig off the bottom, but remember the bite always comes on the fall, so don’t be surprised to have a fish on just after the lure hits the water.

Don’t be surprise if you catch a Flat Fish (Flounder) while fishing the sandy pot holes. Look for hard sandy or rocky broken bottom flats (grass flats with plenty of potholes) around Picnic Island, Simmons Park, Bishop Harbor, and Joe Island down into Bradenton and Sarasota. Upper Tampa Bay sports good fish around Weedon Island, Fourth Street, Cypress Flats, Rocky Point, Double Branch, and Culbreath Isle Flats.

Cobia: Don’t be surprised to see one on the back of large rays and manatees. As the waters cool you should see them around the hot water discharges of power plants. But don’t think you’re going to be alone in these areas… there will be plenty of boats to keep you company. Large shrimp on a ¼-oz. jig head normally does the trick. But small or chunk crab also works. You’ll also catch plenty of smaller sharks, Spanish Mackerel, and some Pompano. Also watch out for the manatees; there are hundreds in the hot water runoffs.

Sheepshead are everywhere during the winter months right through March. Tough, toothy, boney mouths mean aggressive hook sets. Try fishing for these great fighters around markers, bridge fenders, docks, seawalls, rock piles, oyster bars, or practically any type structure. Shrimp and fiddler crabs always produce, but green mussels and oysters also work. I like oysters and mussels the best and so do Sheepshead. Don’t forget to smash the shells into small pieces in your bucket, using it for chum. It really gets them going.


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