The inevitable effects of wintertime fishing have finally arrived, but there are plenty of opportunities for the determined angler. Trout, both silver and specs, are cold water tolerant and among the best bets inshore. Now too is when schools of sheepshead get together and work their way to the gulf. Many will stage on the artificial reefs, at marinas and rock jetties leading that way. Some will hold up at bridges, like the Skyway, Misener and Bayway before they go. Youíll find some hugging the seawalls all along our shoreline on their way out. Still others will use the rock laden edges of the ships channel inside Tampa Bay as their highway while fattening up for their trip. When the seas settle and in lieu of the gag grouper closure, mangrove snapper and hogfish will become our focus in 35-50 feet. Further offshore, amberjack will be willing to oblige those looking to pick a fight on some of the wrecks and reefs beyond 70 feet. Until it warms, gathering live bait will become a challenge. With water temperature in the mid 50s theyíve abandoned the flats and scattered to deeper water. Pinfish are resilient and can be caught all winter. They can be hook and lined, caught by cast net or in traps. Shrimp is by far the most consistent "go to" bait during the winter months. Theyíre almost always available and everything that swims likes to eat íem. We have found that while hog fishing the shrimp donít have to be alive. With a bit of a warming trend and lighter winds forecast for the next few days, now might be the time to sneak out and take advantage.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.