Goodbye warm weather, hello cold-weather gear
Get out your cold-weather gear if you want to go fishing. You need it.
January has seen fit to blast us with the first prolonged cold weather of the winter.
The new year now must start off with a search for warmer water.
Canals and sheltered areas of water that have black, muddy bottoms are a good place to start. Typically, snook, reds and trout will search out these areas for refuge from the cold. To catch these fish while they’re lethargic, you can try a select shrimp, either free-lined or combined with a split shot to slow it down. Artificials, such as Berkley Gulp shrimp, may work, too.
On the beaches, migratory fish are providing sizzling action on small buck-tail jigs or pompano jigs tipped with shrimp. Expect to encounter ladyfish, bluefish, blue runners, jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel along the shoreline. If you’re lucky, you may stumble across a school of pompano — which always is a welcome sight.
Finally, sheepshead are starting to make a showing around the pilings in canals at docks and piers. Live shrimp, fiddler crabs and sand fleas are a great offering to get these tasty, striped fish to bite.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says that as long as there are cooler temperatures, sheepshead are a good species to target. These fish are arriving in good numbers around residential docks and piers, as well as small rock piles in Tampa Bay.
For rigging, Oldham likes to use a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader combined with a Mustad live-bait hook and a split shot. Using a stout hook enables the sheepshead angler to remove the hook without it bending. Sheepshead have bony mouths and are notorious for damaging hooks.
For bait, Oldham suggests using live shrimp cut in half. Frozen shrimp may work, too, but pieces of live shrimp stay better on the hook.
Beach fishing is a good bet for anglers looking for good catch-and-release action from migratory fish. Jack crevalle, bluefish, mackerel, blue runners and ladyfish are readily taking small jigs and even live shrimp. And, if you’re lucky, you may run across a few pompano — a catch worth taking home for dinner.
Capt. Warren Girle had been working on deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay ahead of the cold front in search of a variety of species. While drifting and jigging, Girle primarily targets pompano. In between pomps, Girle’s clients are hooking into bluefish, mackerel, jacks and ladyfish. Although we don’t generally bring these fish home for dinner, they do provide excellent light-tackle action. On average, Girle is returning to the dock with a dozen or so pompano — plenty for a gourmet meal.
Girle also is fishing canals and sandy potholes in spite of the chill for black drum. By using live shrimp, Girle hooks up drum 15-30 inches. These fish readily take live or fresh-cut pieces of shrimp, which provides good action on those cold days when there isn’t much else to do. Plus, these fish taste great when combined with beer batter and hot oil.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says windy conditions are leaving pier anglers with a sporadic bite at best. Strong north winds and cold temperatures can make fishing at the pier challenging, to say the least.
The week’s catches at the pier include sheepshead, flounder and the occasional bluefish or ladyfish. To target the sheepies and flounder, a live shrimp is a great offering, but make sure your bait is on the bottom. For the blues and ladies, try fishing a small buck-tail jig tipped with shrimp.
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