Frequent cold fronts have had the trees leaning sideways for days in a row. Water temperatures are below normal for this time of year as well. What this means is that anglers must be a bit more selective on the days they venture out, and tactics must be adjusted for cold-water success.
What's hot: Catch-and-release trout fishing has been the source of at least some action in Tampa Bay. Trout, like other members of the drum family, have a tolerance for chilly conditions. They can be caught quite effectively on an array of soft plastic jigs. The jigs should be fished just off the bottom for best results. Cold-water trout like to congregate in deep areas adjacent to grass flats and residential canals.
What's not: Flats fishing is probably over for the fall. The grass flats of the bay are void of life. Most species have retreated to deeper water or slightly warmer areas. But there are still a few reds cruising around on warm afternoons. It can be frustrating that spots with fish only a month ago are empty. This is winter fishing in Tampa Bay. Daydreams of the warm and explosive action of spring will eventually come true. We just have to wait it out.
Tip: Any fishing should be done slowly. Fish are cold blooded, and their metabolic rates really slow down when it's cold. Therefore, the overall state of fish is relatively sedentary. Retrieval speeds of lures should be slowed to a crawl. Live shrimp are a good choice for bait because they do not require much effort for a lethargic fish to catch.
Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call (813) 310-6531, e-mail [email protected] or visit snookfish.com.