Action has held up great in the lower part of Tampa Bay. Just that extra few miles south from so many areas that have a bigger “cold night impact” on the fishing, things will be strong even if a cooler trend continues.
February means peak time for sheepshead action. Every seawall, rockpile and bridge piling will have sheepshead. The numbers appear to be very good again this year. Crustacean style baits are important. Rarely caught on lures, the sheepshead on the open flats can be caught on a fly but this is pretty much a “shrimp or fiddler crab” thing. These baits, dropped to the structure with the minimum weight needed to keep it against the structure allows the sheepshead to eat it and easily swim off with the bait, “hook, line and sinker”. I believe that is the best time to set the hook, when you feel the line start to move.
Speckled trout are great targets on the south shore. Trout have finally come around. A strange winter, bigger specimens are finally being caught where they had been mysteriously absent. Throwing 12 Fathom soft plastic lures is a great way to catch both species. I like the SlamR for big gator trout and the 3-inch Mullet for redfish. Redfish remain a mystery. There are some but things have changed over the last five years.
It appears that flounder fishing will endure through the ending weeks of winter. An influx of even more will come when the baitfish migration happens. Will it be March? April? Or later? The south Skyway Pier will be a mecca for Spanish mackerel when that baitfish arrives. The Silly Willy/Teaser rig is the best kept secret for hammering a limit of mackerel. And it is much easier than slinging and cranking those spoons.
As always: Be careful out there!