Winter fishing: Winter fishing along the west coast can be some of the best of the year. There is a variety of good-fighting game fish on the flats, including trout, redfish, snook, sheepshead, ladyfish, pompano, permit and juvenile tarpon. A lot these fish will move into the rivers and deep-water canal systems seeking warmer water.
The rivers from Tampa Bay to Crystal River will hold most of these game fish, which will gather around oyster bars, docks and bridges. Deep holes also may hold some fish. Look for sharp bends in the river; the current moves faster in these spots, creating an easy spot for game fish to ambush prey. When fishing the deep-water canals, look for moving water with structure.
Bait: The best to use in rivers are live jumbo shrimp, creek chubs and live freshwater shiners. All work in canals except shiners, which will die in the salty water. You can also use lures such as small jigs, topwater plugs and crankbaits.
Mike Manning runs Action Fishing Adventures out of Tarpon Springs. Call him toll-free at 1-800-644-5940.