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Tampa Bay Fishing, Cold weather fishing, Tampa Bay areas
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Capt. Thom Smith
Posted: Jan 15 2006, 06:05 PM


Here's some "Cold Weather" fishing news and ideas from CAPT. THOM SMITH OF FLATS LADY CHARTERS & ANGLER'S REPAIR, Bradenton, Fl 941-795-6711 & 776-1187 e-mail: [email protected]

JAN. 15, 2006


Much to the dismay of weekend anglers, our last two cold fronts have pushed through on a Friday, effecting some angler's plans for a Saturday or Sunday fishing trip. Between fronts, we've had some beautiful warm days that helped to bump water temperatures up, providing a small bonanza, for a few days over the hard rock areas just off of Anna Maria Island. Redfish, pompano, sheepshead, blue fish and some nice spotted sea trout were being caught on both live and artificials, before the last front with gale force winds rolled through, shutting things down. Let's hope the severe winds didn't mess things up too bad and when the weather straightens out, some of the fish will move into the same pattern. In the cooler months, it's not always a sure thing.

Usually during the winter months, I basically target two types of areas to try to produce fish for my customers. One is concentrating on more developed areas like docks, piers, bridges, sunken boats and the rock ledges of the Intercoastal Waterway. Most of this fishing is done using live bait like shrimp or pieces of shrimp, fishing for redfish, flounder, sheepshead, mangrove snapper and an occasional grouper. When I target these type of places, I look for seasoned structure. By "seasoned", I mean that they've been around for awhile, like pilings of a dock that have lots of barnacles, oysters or growth around the base. This food source will be a feeding station for the fish and provide a good opportunity for the angler. To fish these areas, you'll want to anchor a short casting distance away from the structure so as not to spook the fish. You may want to use a medium heavy rod in the 12 - 20 pound class with the same pound test line, a two foot length of 20-25 pound leader, to hold the bait in the feeding zone.

The idea is to get the bait up under a dock or as close to the object as possible. You may lose tackle and have to re-rig occasionally, but remember, if you are not getting hung up, you're not close enough. There's an old saying when fishing for sheephead: "You have to hook them before they bite". Sounds strange, but it's somewhat true. Sheepshead can steal your bait before you know it, so here's a tip. Allow no slack in your line. Watch your line where it enters the water and set the hook on any little bump or movement of the line. Sometimes it takes awhile to get the feel for it, but you will get the hang of it. There are a variety of fish available for this type fishing, so you may be surprised what you hook into. Sheepshead are not the prettiest fish in the sea, but they are strong fighters and excellent table fare.

The second type of winter fishing and really as long as it lasts, is my favorite. Fishing the backwaters for redfish, flounder, trout and even sheepshead. This is what I've been doing for the past month and it has been productive. During the winter months, we have some very low tides, especially over the full and new moon periods. What that does is bunch up the fish into potholes and the deep holes, usually adjacent to oyster bars and even when the tide comes in, they still may stay in the holes, because of the food available there.

Artificials are what I prefer to use and over the past few trips, Baby Bass, Mangrove Red, and some of the darker colors of the Mister Twister RT Slugs, rigged on a 1/16oz jighead or on a "Keeper Hook", has produced for me. Terra Ceia and Joes Bays are a couple of the areas I've had sucess in. Winter fishing in the backwaters takes alot of patience and you may have to poke around until you find a spot holding fish. Also, in the clear water, you need to be stealthy and fish a hole before you drift over it and miss an opportunite. Remember with the cold snaps we've been having, the water temperature on the flats has been fluctuating, so if you're going to fish artificials, slow your retrieve down and give the fish a chance to catch up. Most of the time, they won't exert the energy to chase a lure if it zips by.

e-mail: [email protected] Also, join me every Thursday Evening from 6-7PM on 1490AM for "ON THE WATER WITH CAPT THOM". Call me with your questions or reports - 945-1490.

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