Can't escape cold: One element to the inshore fishing pattern overshadows all others right now: cold water. The long-lasting chill has caused many grass flats to become barren of fish. The water temperature in the shallows changes much faster than deeper areas, therefore the shallows are more prone to extreme cold. On many occasions, the water on northern Pinellas County flats has dropped into the mid 40s. These fluctuations cause the fish to seek more stable conditions.
The good news: This exodus, however, can concentrate the fish in other places. One of my favorite spots in really cold weather for speckled trout is most unusual and was mentioned to me 20 years ago by a local old-timer. It is a depression with no grass or cover anywhere nearby and frequent boat traffic right over the top of it. At the time, I would have probably never fished it without his mention of it. On the coldest of days it is not unusual to catch and release 50 or more specks from the bottom of this one hole. Experimentation over the years revealed that the best bait here is also unlikely: 6-inch dark-purple plastic worms, the same ones used by bass fishermen.
Lesson: When the fishing just is not working at any of your regular spots, step out of your routine and make a few casts in new areas, no matter how unlikely. There will always be a few spots yet to be discovered.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.