Although the variety of species diminishes in the winter months, the number of fish caught does not necessarily follow suit. Northern Pinellas County is regarded by many as the mecca of large trout fishing in the region, and Tampa Fishing Guides take full advantage of this. Although catching a limit of 15 to 24 inch trout does not happen every day, that is the expectation on most Tampa Fishing Charters. The trick to catching fish is to actively move until fish are located as, for the most part, big winter trout are aggressive feeders and tend to gather in groups. Usually, when a bait falls into a fishy area, it is quickly consumed. There are times, such as on slack tide, when fish will be seen but not caught but usually a few can be coaxed into biting and when tidal movement strengthens, fishing can really go off. Large shrimp are the standard bait but winter fishing for trout is a time when artificials can work just as well as live bait. Minnow imitating plugs and plastic swim tail jigs seem to be the most productive baits but these fish will strike a huge range of offerings. Like most other fishermen, Tampa Fishing Guides will have their favorite lures but ask five guides what their favorite lure is, and chances are, there will be five different responses....supporting the theory that these fish just aren't that picky.
One drawback of the great fishing available is the crowded conditions that can sometime develop. By following a few simple rules, everyone can enjoy their day on the water. It seems a shame to work all week, only to go fishing and get into an altercation because of someone's lack of courtesy. Here are a few simple rules that will help everyone co-exist. First, whether there are other anglers on the water or not, it's generally best to stay 20 - 30 yards or so away from the fish so as not to scare them off, so gear up with the proper tackle to make these longer casts. Second, boats without a trolling motor shouldn't drive into an area where others are catching fish as there's a good chance of ruining the bite.Third, if other anglers are catching fish on a windy day, approaching from the down wind side will often result in a problem as casting into the wind is difficult and getting close enough to cast to the fish will often be too close, spooking all the fish out of the area. Fourth, conflict will be created by drifting through areas where other anchored fishermen are fishing. Oftentimes, these anglers will say that they didn't realize that this was a problem. It's always a problem. Fifth, inexperienced anglers who aren't sure of what to do or how to fish should ask an experienced local angler or guide what is acceptable behavior before driving into an ares populated with boats that are actively fishing.
The bottom line is that the person who is catching fish is quite often the person who got up early, moved around a lot, and worked hard to locate fish. This person has done the work and should have the right to catch the fish. Someone who sleeps until 10 am and then just wants to roll out and drive into the fish, regardless of the other boats around, will always create problems. If someone is on a good spot first, respect that fact and let them catch their fish. Go fish for something else or go research another area. Tampa Fishing Guides and local anglers who fish every day have no more right to a spot than the novice angler. The same rules apply to everyone.
Other January Tampa Fishing opportunities include pursuing redfish. This is best done around oyster bars and docks on the higher phases of the tide. Shrimp is, by far, the best winter bait for redfish for two reasons. First, when inshore water gets cold, much of the bait disappears and redfish expect to be looking down for crabs and other crustaceans. Second, smaller redfish always prefer shrimp and there are many more small redfish than large ones during the colder months.
Occasional bluefish, Spanish mackerel and pompano will be caught when pursuing winter trout as well. On some days, good sized ladyfish are also abundant...maybe not the desired species but a bent rod is better than soaking bait. Warm winter days are beautiful tiimes to fish and, with all of the above options, there are plenty of fish to catch. Good luck and good fishing.
Upcoming events in the Tampa / St Pete / Cl;earwater area in the next month include the East West Shrine Game on January 17th. This college all star game features many of the soon to be drafted NFL prospects. One of Tampa's biggest events of the year, The Gasparilla Invasion and Parade takes place on January 31st in Tampa.