What's hot: This month, cold fronts are going to be a factor in fishing trip plans. Target fish less affected by cooler temperatures. Three that will be most reliable are spotted sea trout, redfish and sheepshead.
Bait: As sardine populations dwindle, larger live shrimp and artificial baits take over. All of these feed regularly on shrimp and other small crustaceans. Shrimp are easy prey since they have little defense and are slower than most other baits. The presentation should be slow as well, especially when using artificial shrimp. Trout will often be around spoil islands along the shoreline, moving into deeper water as the sun rises and boat traffic increases. Redfish of all sizes have been feeding around the oyster bars in the backcountry areas, where darker bottom heats quicker. For both species, try freelining a tailhooked shrimp, or casting an artificial shrimp, working in slowly to imitate a natural presentation.
Tip: For sheepshead, search cuts and edges along oyster bars or around docks with a shelled and rocky perimeter. Sheepshead are notorious bait thieves. Downsize hooks to No. 1 or No. 2 size. Thread half a shrimp on, adding a split shot for casting distance. Many other small fish will pick on your bait, but a stronger, consistent tug will likely be a sheepshead.
Brian Caudill fishes from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs. He can be reached at (727) 365-7560 and through his website at captbrian.com.