Looking ahead: With cold fronts pushing through, winter fishing can be a challenge. Persistent winds and rough seas have curtailed much of the offshore activity and reduced most angling to residential canals and other protected waters on the lee side of the wind. Sheepshead, trout and redfish have provided most of the action. When the weather stabilizes, grouper digging will be among the best bets. Our most recent trips have been more productive inside 40 feet.
Bait availability: Live baiters have discovered whitebait and greenbacks increasingly more difficult to gather as water temperature drops. Pinfish, however, are more tolerant of the cold and will be available through the winter. Shrimp also provide a worthy option. Much of the winter fishing inshore can be effective with a variety of plugs, an assortment of jigs, and live and artificial shrimp.
Alternate bait: Though it's no secret fiddler crabs are a great bait for sheepshead, most think they need to be alive. Frozen fiddlers have become increasingly popular and equally effective. Though difficult to gather during the winter, they are stockpiled by some bait shops, which now offer the frozen variety.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 321-2142.