January’s polar chill creates challenges on the water
Once again, January is sending us multiple cold fronts in a week’s time. Consistently cold weather in Florida can make fishing challenging, so be prepared to do some hunting to find your target.
And even after you find the fish, you can only hope that they’re going to bite. Don’t be discouraged. They may not bite on the first try, but go back on a warmer day for improved chances of a hookup.
Good species to target during the cold days include pompano, sheepshead, snapper and flounder. Bluefish also seem not to be as affected by the cold. For the pompano and bluefish, try jigging with some fresh shrimp on the tip to add scent. For the sheepies, flounder and snapper, live shrimp will do the job.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is working a wintertime pattern and catching a variety of species. To start, Gross is fishing nearshore reefs and rock piles for sheepshead, mangrove snapper and flounder. By baiting a knocker rig with live shrimp, Gross’ clients are reeling up respectable catches of the trio mentioned.
After fishing the reefs, Gross is moving closer to shore to work residential docks and canals, again using live shrimp for bait. By casting under docks, his charter clients are hooking into sheepshead and black drum for the dinner table. Keeper-sizes of both species are being caught, although the whoppers have not quite settled in yet.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure on days when the wind and weather permit. On these days, Girle is using fresh-cut shiners for bait. By fishing the bottom with cut bait, Girle’s clients are bringing up mangrove snapper, flounder and the occasional catch-and-release gag grouper. Spanish mackerel are on the reefs taking both cut bait and shrimp — usually biting on the drop.
On windy days, Girle is staying tucked inside Sarasota Bay. By fishing deep grass flats, he is turning his clients onto the usual migratory species — bluefish, mackerel, jack crevalle and ladyfish — but especially pompano. To target these species, Girle is using small pompano jigs tipped with shrimp. Not only does this method produce a lot of action for the light-tackle fisher, but it’s resulting in a few pompano in the cooler to take home for dinner.
At Island Discount Tackle, fishers are reporting a decent bite around the canals and docks of Key Royale. Fishers using live shrimp are catching a variety of species, including spotted seatrout, redfish, flounder, black drum and sheepshead. Most hookups are coming from under docks or other similar structure. For the trout, try fishing the mouths of deep-water canals.
Pompano are still being reported from both the beaches and bays. Fishers seeking pompano for dinner are using Goofy jigs or regular old pompano jigs tipped with shrimp to get a bite. Check the usual spots on the beach during calm seas to hook up.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says pier fishers willing to brave the cold winds across Tampa Bay are being rewarded with catches of sheepshead, flounder and juvenile grouper. Fishing in January at the pier can be challenging at best, so patience is a virtue. Live shrimp is the top bait to produce a bite. Casting live shrimp with a weight under the pier and around the pilings will locate the fish.
Pier fishers using white buck-tail jigs are catching the occasional bluefish and jack crevalle in Tampa Bay. Most of the time, these migratory fish are passing by the pier, either on their way into Anna Maria Sound or on their way out. The right place and right time bring success this time of year for targeting blues and jacks.
On another note, Capt. Mike Greig is putting on his M&M Bait cap, gearing up his crew for a season of bait sales at the dock just outside the Holmes Beach boat basin.
He offers a quick fill up for your bait well on the water — a blackout of fresh shiners. He’s taking reservations now.
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