Happy New Year! Hopefully everyone had a Merry Christmas. December was warmer than normal and the bite in our region has been great. Snook, redfish, trout, and flounder have been the headline species. If the warm trend continues, look to continue to target these species all month. When temperatures get back to normal, it will be time to switch to your winter time tactics.
Trout season will officially open this month and with the new FWC rules, it will stay open all year. The regulations are still 15”-20” with 4 fish per angler. The trout fishery in Tampa Bay has been phenomenal and our region has a lot of areas to target them. From the Alafia River all the way down to Joe Island, the area will hold plenty of trout. Live shrimp or artificial will work.
Fish the shrimp under a popping cork with a 20lb Berkley fluorocarbon leader and a 1/0 Daiichi Circle hook. For artificial lures, use any soft plastic jerk bait or swim shad on a 1/8 or 1/4 ounce jig head. As far as colors, I prefer white and nuclear chicken.
The sheepshead bite should heat up all month long. They will be schooling up around our region’s artificial reefs, wrecks, and rock piles preparing to spawn. Shrimp is usually the easiest bait to get, but if you can get your hands on some Asian green muscles or sand fleas you are sure to have a great time. The bite on a sheepshead is very subtle, so you have to almost anticipate the bite. I like to use a 1/2 or 3/4 ounce jig head to get the baits down. I also use a knocker rig with a #1 Daichii circle hook.
The TECO power plant in our region has plenty to offer this time of year. The hot water runoff from the power plant keeps the waters in the area around 75 degrees. The warm temperatures attract many different species…Snook, redfish, trout, pompano, permit, cobia, sharks, and the lists go on. It can also get crowded with beach-fishermen. Just bring along some common sense and be courteous of others. Also, the manatees will use this area to survive the winter, so be on the lookout and follow all the signs for slow zones.
Best of the rest
If the warm weather continues, look for the snook and redfish bite to continue to stay hot. Fishing all of our area river systems will reward you with some nice trophy size fish. The flounder bite continues to surprise me. I have caught more flounder this year than the last three years combined. Fish any sand or hard bottom and you are sure to find some flounder. A shrimp fished on the bottom with a jig head or split shot will produce good fish.