Chill in the air: The fishing in Tampa Bay has been feast or famine. The air temperature has fallen compared to last week's warmth, and the wind has been going for days, creating difficult angling. Major weather changes tend to complicate the whole equation, but with patience and perseverance, good catches can be had.
What's hot: Speckled trout will be in season soon. Catch-and-release anglers already have been busy with these fish, as trout cooperate even when it is wicked cold. This fact, along with their relative ease to catch, makes targeting them a real crowd pleaser for the entire family about now.
Tip: Soft-plastic jigs fished slowly will trigger strikes from cool-water trout. Let the lure sink to the bottom and retrieve it slowly. Live shrimp are hard to beat for natural bait. On cold mornings, trout bunch up in deeper water adjacent to grass flats. On really warm days, especially after several in a row, they move to shallower water.
Tackle: Light or even ultralight tackle is preferred for winter trout fishing. Light equipment is more fun while hooked up and the sensitive gear makes subtle strikes more noticeable. Undersized fish should not be handled if possible. Breaching the delicate slime layer of a trout is just about a death sentence for the fish. Use a dehooking device, or hold the jig head and give it a few soft shakes to make the release easier. The trout usually flops off and back into the water, slime layer intact.
Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call (813) 310-6531, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.snook fish.com.