What's hot: Now is the time to catch some quality redfish and trout. You will have to go skinny to make this happen. The real low or even negative tides in the upper bay will allow you to do this. The big schools aren't around, so target these fish in the sand holes. Flats with a good mixture of sand holes and grass are the best. In addition, the cold weather has turned on the sheepshead bite. This is a fish that can withstand the cold water and even seems to thrive on it. You can catch them around oyster bars, seawalls, docks, reefs and tidal creeks. The upper bay is loaded with them now.
Tactics: To fish the skinny water, you need bait you can work without getting caught up in the weeds. Try using a weighted worm hook of one-sixteenth or one-eighth ounces so you can rig your bait weedless with your favorite soft plastic. Most of the sheepshead action has been around the oyster bars fishing with shrimp. Tearing a live shrimp and using half of it has produced the best results. Another go-to bait is the fiddler crab. They can be found on most shorelines and are easy to catch. A 15-pound leader with a No. 1 or No. 2 hook with a small split shot should do the job.
Tip: Sheepshead are notorious for stealing your bait. Make sure to keep your line tight, and as soon as you feel that first bump, set the hook.
Mike Gore charters out of Tampa Bay. Call him at (813) 390-6600 or visit tampacharters.com.