January 2011 From Hernando Beach to Venice
The Tampa Bay fisheries are a favorite of many winter time anglers and this is for good reason. In Upper Tampa Bay (Double Branch area) there are some great places to fish year round but during the winter these areas produce great numbers of trout and redfish. Cockroach Bay, Weedon Island and many other places around the bay are also great wintertime spots.
With the water temp in the low 50's you can expect many inshore species to take cover in warmer backwaters of creeks, canals and rivers. Look for snook, redfish, trout, and jacks under docks, along sea walls, and other types of structure throughout the creeks and rivers. Large select shrimp worked very slowly along the bottom will be the best natural bait.
A variety of artificial baits will work well this month but the key to your success is working them right. Remember the water is cold so you will want to down size your lure to something smaller like a 1/4 oz gold spoon or a mirrodine, you will also need to slow your retrieve way down to almost barely moving. Slowing your retrieve down is the hardest part, when you think you are reeling too slow go ahead and slow it down even more.
Sheepshead should be around in good numbers this month. You can find these tasty fish around shell shoreline, oyster bars, bridge pilings and rock piles. Fiddler crabs are the bait of choice but a small cut piece of shrimp will also work.
Silver trout should be around Cockroach Bay, Caladisi Island and some other places where you can find sandy bottom flats. Most any soft plastic artificial lure rigged on a 1/8 oz - 3/8 oz (depending on water depth) jighead will do the trick.
If alot of manatees are present around some of the areas powerplants keep an eye out for cobia. A pinfish a few feet under a float is hard for these fish to resist.
Grouper can still be found in the bay on the edges of the shipping channel and nearshore structure but the cooler weather pushes these fish further offshore. Frozen sardines work great this time of year or a wounded pinfish (best way to wound a pinfish is to cut its tail off with a knife or slap it up against the boat a few times to injure it).
It has been cold and the conditions have been tough but the fishing is still very good. The best part about the Tampa Bay fisheries and bad weather is that they are alot less crowded this time of year so take advantage while you can!