What is there to catch in January? Actually, a variety of species can be caught this month.  These range from abundant large seatrout, occasional redfish...which generally average smaller in size than during the warmer months, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, sheephead, a stray pompano and, sometimes, snapper on the near shore reefs.  Every once a while, on a prolonged warming trend, a snook might show up, but they represent an infrequent catch during the coldest months. The real issue is the weather.  During January and February, some Tampa Fishing Guides feel that the weather pattern becomes more important than tide in having a good fishing day. Strong, moving tides are generally regarded as being better to catch both seatrout and redfish.  Moving water triggers the trout bite and the very high and very low tides both increase chances of catching redfish.  That said, put a cold front at the beginning of a strong tide phase and finding fish that want to eat becomes like looking for a drink in the desert. On some days, fish can actually be seen swimming lethargically around, right next to the boat, yet they are completely unwilling to eat.

 Clearwater Big Winter Seatrout

On the bright side, Tampa Fishing Charters can produce big numbers on some January days. Dozens of large seatrout can be caught in rapid succession with occasional "other species" being added to the mix on the "right" day. A typical winter weather sequence would be the following.  The weather is warm and the temperature reaches 73 degrees. The next day, a cold front arrives and delivers two nights with lows in the mid forties. Do boat repair, rig tackle or read a book for the next two days. Fishing will be unproductive, even frustrating.  It's completely logical that fish are not interested in eating. Excepting the Intercoastal channel, the deepest water between the main shore and the barrier islands is probably 10 feet...with much of it being 3 to 4 feet deep.  If air temperatures go from 73 to 45 overnight, it's a safe bet that near shore water temperatures will drop in the neighborhood of 7 - 8 degrees.  This shocks the fish. Most of their efforts over the next few days will not be to eat, but to find warmer water.  There are certain locations locally where fish can be seen in incredibly shallow water, after a cold front has passed and a warming trend has started. These fish know that the shallows will warm first so, once water temps start to rise, these spots represent the most comfortable locations.  These fish are never aggressive but can sometimes be coaxed into eating.

Tampa Clearwater Winter Redfish

As waters continue to warm, fish become more and more aggressive, especially after not eating much for a few days.  Every day during the warming trend tends to produce better fishing with the best day often being immediately before the next cold front arrives. The only real exception to this rule is if high pressure settles in for too long, offering blue skies and calm waters.  With fronts coming thru on an average of every seven days in the winter though, this isn't often a problem. Now, back to tides. It's hit or miss, but sometimes a good weather pattern will match up with a strong tide.  This is the bonus situation. These are the days to be on the water.

With many people still looking for outdoor entertainment options, a visit to the newly opened St. Pete Pier might be one. The Pier is considered one of the best new attractions around and is much more expansive that the old pier with many additional activities. If a walk though the woods of "Old Florida" is of greater interest, check out Hillsborough River State Park for a look at how things used to be.  Good luck and good fishing.


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