What's hot: Certainly not the water temperature, staying close to 50 degrees this week along with strong full-moon tides and winds gusting to 20 mph. This recipe makes for difficult sight fishing for redfish unless you can find a warm, quiet cove out of the wind. Tampa Bay is full of canals and residential fingers lined with docks that will hold good numbers of sheepshead and redfish. Trout will be hanging in deeper channels and potholes waiting for the sun to warm their feeding grounds.
Tactics: Live shrimp tossed near or under residential docks will produce mangrove snapper, sheepshead and a few redfish. Use enough weight to take the shrimp to the bottom. Split shots are easily added or taken off for different depths. I prefer to free-line shrimp on the edges of deep channels and potholes for trout using small diameter leader line and circle hooks. If it is really cold, I add a small split shot and give the bottom a try for trout in deep holes.
Tip: Dress for success. This time of year hypothermia is common among waders and boaters who do not prepare for getting wet and chilled. Layer your clothing for easy on and off. Wind chill can cut right through you and chill you to the bone, so wear a wind-resistant overcoat. Try dark, muddy residential canals. They stay warmer than open water, and midday fishing will have the sun warming the flats.
Jackie Otto can be reached at Betts Fishing Center at (727) 518-7637 or firstname.lastname@example.org.