What's hot: A record-breaking cold December has made for tricky fishing. Recent warm weather should activate lethargic fish and make for more pleasant fishing conditions. Speckled trout will feed regardless of the cold. Actually, chilly mornings tend to group trout into depressions and potholes. The mouths of residential canals and deep cuts adjacent to the flats are two great places to find trout.
Tackle: Ultralight gear can make the experience much more enjoyable for several reasons. First, the gear lets anglers detect subtle strikes, which are common when it is cold. Second, it is ideal for casting light jigs, which trout absolutely love. And it's just fun. These fish aren't known for their tenacity or brawn.
Tip: Barbs should be bent down for easy release. Trout are especially vulnerable to disease if their slime layer is breached. With a bent barb, the fish can be shaken off the hook without touching the fish and therefore giving it a much better chance for survival. Grab the jig head, and just a small shake is all it takes. Only net the ones intended for dinner.
Bait: Sheepshead are milling around most docks in Tampa Bay. A small shrimp on a proportionately sized live bait hook, pitched close to the pilings, is a combination for success. They, like trout, will eat on "arctic express" days.
Dave Walker charters out of Tampa and can be reached at snookfish.com or (813) 310-6531.