By Neil Taylor and capmel.com kayak fishing staff contributors
Around the state:
Good weather has to be around the corner. Our kayak fishing friends to the north are thawing out, literally after snow and ice enveloped their part of the state. To the south, more opportunities but challenging conditions. February will be a transition into the mild before the mayhem of Spring. Things may remain tough in the northern part of the state for this next month but will be steadily improving just about everywhere else. Dress for it: Get out when you can. February should be good fishing all around the state.
The Tampa Bay region–
Much like January, this month has challenges. The good news is, February is a short month and when we get past the next four weeks, the fishing will get really easy again.
It is peak time for sheepshead in February For those who like to eat fish, this is an easy target. Every barnacle encrusted surface may have sheepshead chewing on it. The fly anglers will trick some convicts but the most efficient way to catch sheepshead is with natural baits. Fresh shrimp, fiddler crabs or blood worms are choice baits. Sink these baits down to the base of the structure (against a piling, under a dock or right up against the rocks of a seawall). Baits out any distance from the structure are usually ignored.
Silver trout and whiting are easy targets these months. Like sheepshead, if you like to eat fish, this is a way to get plenty for the frying pan. The Silly Willy with a teaser is great for both species. I like brighter colors for silvers, small lures for the whiting. The 12 Fathom SlamR is my favorite wintertime lure for all the other species. The Edje jighead is a great way to rig the SlamR but it will work on a regular jighead too.
Trout and redfish action will become better this month. It has been so tough in January the fish have moved into the very upper/back stretches of Tampa Bay and have not ventured out very far. The Ghost Town flats will have more activity if we get into a much better weather trend. If it stays difficult, that’s where you go: Creeks, rivers and canals are more likely to have action that the locations you normally go ten months of the year.
All dependent on weather: If it is good conditions, go. If it is lousy, skip it.
In the Southwest “Suncoast” area of Florida, Steve Gibson with Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing: Spotted seatrout action should be very good over
the deep grass in Sarasota Bay, Little Sarasota Bay and Palma Sola
Bay. In addition, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack
crevalle should please. Redfish action should perk up on the flats and
around mangroves. Snook are still in the bay, but will move to creeks
and rivers if we get a sustained cold front. In fresh water, Lake
Manatee and the Manatee River should produce bluegill, largemouth
bass, channel catfish, shellcracker and speckled perch. Alligator
Alley should produce loads of oscar, Mayan cichlid, bluegill,
largemouth bass, stumpknocker, warmouth perch and an occasional
Florida East Coast: Forecast by: The dropping water levels and crystal clear flats will produce some of the best sight fishing conditions offered. Calm days fallowing cold fronts will allow the shallows to warm triggering our Seatrout and Redfish to feed. Areas adjacent to deeper and protected waters will become increasingly productive as the cold fronts become more frequent. Soft plastic baits presented to seen targets should get the line peeling off your reel. I prefer the Slayer Inc. lures SSB in molting or pepper death. This stick bait when rigged weedless imitates the common winter forage of shrimp. Calm days with clear skies will be the most easily fished using this method, and 10 to 2pm time period will give you the best light.
In the Big Bend of Florida’s Panhandle, Robert Baker at TnT Hideaway- Reports from both Rob at TnT and Brad at Sunjammers in Panama City both indicate that things have been on the outs with the winter weather. What February will bring has a lot to do with just what happens with the weather pattern. They endured broken pipes, closed roads and highways so people have been dealing with that and their thoughts on fishing are looking into the future. With some warmth long enough to thaw things out the most serious kayak anglers will go. What they will catch: Redfish and trout. To see Rob’s operation, check out: http://www.tnthideaway.com/ . If you are going to be in Panama City, stop in and see Brad and his staff at Sunjammers: http://sunjammers.com/
In Northeast Florida:
Frustrated and cold: We still catch fish up here for those who are resilient enough to go. Stinging cold temperatures in January made it a bad time to even try but we hope to have action on our great fishery in the next month. Kayak anglers are stocked up on their equipment with nothing else to do when it has been so brutal. These folks are eager to get their feet wet again, but probably their boots and not acually their feet for a couple more months. It is still very much “winter” here.
In the greater South Florida area:
There are a lot of options for the kayak anglers down here right now. With some driving around: A fantastic variety of action inshore and offshore. Chokolosee has tons of redfish. Flamingo’s got snook. The Keys has lots of options, particularly for the kayak angler with the dream of catching a big cobia. Sailfish are also a possibility around the reefs all around South Florida. Every day the winds are down, there will be amazing stories of great fishing from the kayaks! We suggest that you have a certain experience level to try this kind of trip.
The tip of the month:
Keep it light. The tackle, the lures, the jigheads. February will remain a finesse game with the fish still in cold water mode. Keep it light, keep it slow and catch what is there. Lighter line, leader and lures means that you can maintain some better slow action on lures while going the minimum speed. Going slow will be the difference between catching some fish and no fish. Recommendation: Get some 1/16-ounce jigheads.
Need help learning how to kayak fish? Hire one of our guides on staff for your region and take advantage of their knowledge and sharpen your own skills!
Get out and into the action but as always: Be careful out there!
Neil Taylor, www.capmel.com site administrator