The promise of warmer weather after this extended period of below-normal temperatures will improve opportunities for anglers who find the warmest water.
Offshore: Deep springs will hold good numbers of grouper and amberjack for those willing to make long runs when the weather permits. The normal shallow-water grouper bite this time of year tends to become unreliable because of dirty water and rapidly changing temperatures. Look for many of the grouper that were in the 15- to 45-foot range to be between 50 and 70 feet. Big ledges seem to be the best bet with these conditions, and large cut baits such as ladyfish and mullet are a sure bet.
Inshore: Shallow, dark-bottom flats will be the first areas to warm up. Think of areas normally avoided in the summer, where the water is stagnant and void of life. These are great places to find redfish and trout sunning themselves. The fish will still be lethargic, so shrimp, cut bait and small scented jigs presented with little movement will be the most effective.
Tips: I have observed quite a few cold-killed snook the past couple of mornings. These fish are in rough shape and should be left alone as they are struggling to survive. Avoid disturbing them or pushing them away from their warm-water havens.
Troy P. Sapp with Fins and Tails Guide service can be reached at (813) 920-6928.