What's hot: Cold fronts every three to seven days have dropped the water temperature into the mid 50s. Snook become lethargic and hard to find. This time of year is closed for snook because they can seem to be dead and float to the surface in extreme cold-water temperatures. Sea trout and redfish seem to be unaffected. Schools of trout and redfish around the Fort De Soto area have shown up in impressive numbers. The key has been keeping up with the movement of bait.
Bait: Scaled sardines, also known as whitebait, can be tough to locate. Sardines will move offshore to deeper water to find more stable temperatures. Start before sunrise and throw a 12¼-foot mesh cast net under the brightest bridge light. Use a smaller mesh to prevent any smaller bait from getting gilled in the net. Sometimes the tide is wrong and the bait will not be under the lights. When this happens, wait until daylight and drive around looking for pelicans and terns to start diving. They are usually diving in the deeper channels along the Sunshine Skyway bridge, or an angler can cruise the beach. Pelicans making the longer dives are the ones that will lead to the bait anglers want. Once birds are located, look at a bottom machine for clouds of bait hugging the bottom. Larger scaled sardines have yielded some very large "gator" trout, making it worth the effort of filling the live well.
Rob Gorta charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at captainrobgorta.com or (727) 647-7606.