Falling water temperature is causing snook and baby tarpon to head upriver to their winter haunts, where both species can adapt to freshwater. Many fish that have been around river mouths, bridges and near beaches are migrating upriver and making frequent feeding stops. Structure is key as any diversion from a smooth bank often holds baitfish. Points, sand holes, channels, fallen trees, undercut banks and small mangrove islands must all be explored. Don’t spend a lot of time in one spot. Cast accurately with baitfish patterns the size and color of what you see in the water. A cast that lands 3 feet from structure will not produce as well as one within inches or under fish holding obstacles. Watch your temperature gauge. Warmer water in small shallow bays can be a hot spot. Fish will often be in groups, so when one or two are caught, continue fishing the area. Keep the boat parallel to shore with an electric motor where two experienced fly casters can work an area using different setups. An outgoing tide will drain small creeks of baitfish and large predators will be in the closest deep hole waiting for an easy meal.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico runs charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.