The cold helps: This year has been warmer than any year I can remember in my 40 years of fishing the bay area. But it might be a good thing we had this cold front come through this past weekend. One of the main target species for a lot of area anglers in February is sheepshead. This is the time of year when the big females come into the bay and spawn. The moon phase has a lot to do with this, but we have not been catching near as many big sheepshead as we normally do at this time. Hopefully the front will move some of the sows in and our catches will improve. We have had a good sheepshead bite lately but most of the fish have been under legal size (12 inches). That's not as bad as it sounds when you consider we get 30 to 40 fish a day when fishing for them.
Trout: Another species that has been cooperative is sea trout. Hopefully this change in conditions will not affect their bite. Like the sheepshead, we have been catching more under-slot fish than keepers (15 to 20 inches) but have had good success catching enough to take home for a fish fry. The fish we have caught have been in the upper slot. Most of them have ranged from 18 to 22 inches. It's as if all the 15- to 18-inch fish are somewhere else or not hungry.
Redfish: The redfish bite was good this past week, but once again, size was an issue. Most fish were under the legal limit (18 to 27 inches) with a few keepers mixed in.
Bait: My best results lately have come from shrimp instead of whitebait. There are plenty of sardines at the bridge, and I have had them in my well on recent trips, but they have not been productive. If your target is snook, you might get better results, but shrimp seems to be best for everything else right now.
Ric Liles fishes out of Tampa, Ruskin, Bradenton and the surrounding areas, and can be reached at (813) 601-2900, via email at CaptainRic@msn.com, or at ReelSimpleFishing.com.