Dock lights still hot in cold weather: Reviewing several years of my fishing log, I noticed that I have never fished lighted docks at night with the success that I have had this winter. Large snook for catch and release have been plentiful, but the real surprises have been large trout and even larger redfish.
Before our most recent cold front, we caught several redfish that were over the slot with nine-weight fly rods using clear sinking tip lines and a synthetic imitation of a 3-inch bay anchovy. The night before, one slot red was kept, and stomach contents revealed this baitfish and some small shrimp. One lighted dock held a school of redfish in which all were very large and actively feeding. A properly placed fly was often followed by several active fish competing for it.
Tactics: Letting your fly sink and allowing the tide to carry it to the fish will avoid spooking them in clear winter water. Make long casts, and have the baitfish imitation lightly touch the water instead of slapping the surface. Using a boat with a bow-mounted electric trolling motor facing into the current is better than anchoring, and it provides a quick move to deeper, structure-free water, where the larger fish are better controlled. Heavier tackle is needed, so a 25-pound fluorocarbon tippet is my usual choice.
Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.