The Tampa Bay Times

By Ed Walker

With Gulf waters as cold as they ever get locally, the fishing action is somewhat limited. Many species hunker down in deep holes and greatly reduce feeding activity. There are a few bright spots. Redfish on the flats do not mind cold water and they have been around in very good numbers this year. Sheepshead gather for spawning in January and February. Many, if not most, of the really big sheepshead with move out of the backwaters, bridge plings, and jetties and migrate out to reefs and wrecks offshore. Here they will aggregate in incredible masses, numbering in the hundreds or more.

Another species that is abundant in the dead of winter is the silver trout. These somewhat mysterious fish appear in big numbers off the beaches from Clearwater to Tampa Bay in incredible quantity when gets cold and dirty. Where they all live the rest of the year I honestly do not know but come winter you can catch all you want. Historically the best area has been off Indian Shores and Redington Beach. If you find the right school it is not unusual to catch “silvers” all day while jigging. They are tasty but do not freeze well so most anglers take what they can eat for a few days and release the rest.

To find them either idle around watching your sonar for schools in 15 to 20 feet of water or simply drift and bounce jigs up and down off the bottom. Once you locate the fish, either drop anchor or adjust your drift to concentrate on a specific area.

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