Winter advantage: Winter is presenting some challenges that likely will continue for a couple of months. Fishing the day before a front arrives can be a bonanza. I took a client to a river emptying into Tampa Bay; we were on the water midday as the tide started to come in. We went upriver keeping an eye on our depth finder and temperature recorder. As the river narrowed, we found protection from the wind and warmer water. Rivers are always deepest on an outside bend. Finding deep water that had submerged structure was key to locating fish.
Find fish: A split-tail baitfish jig can be slowly bounced on the bottom. Use at least 15-pound braided line with a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader when spinning. Slowly working the jig will elicit strikes that can be soft, so eliminate slack line. After locating fish we switched to weighted synthetic baitfish pattern size-1 flies fished with an intermediate sinking fly line. A 4-foot, 30-pound fluorocarbon leader was connected to the fly with a loop knot for maximum fly action.
Watch the water: We saw small baitfish scatter when our flies hit pockets close to shore. Soon a few snook chased the bait. This was our clue to change to sinking-tip fly lines and smaller fly patterns.
Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.