What's hot. Sheepshead fishing during winter can be fantastic if you look in the right place. I like looking for them around most of the docks, rock piles, rocky shorelines and artificial reefs in the Tampa Bay area. All that structure around the bay holds lots of good sized sheepshead.
Bait. The leaders I use are 15-pound test fluorocarbon and were only 9 to 15 inches long, tied to a 1/0 hook and just enough weight to get it down. I like using short leaders and small hooks for sheepshead. With a longer leader, it doesn't allow you to feel a bite as well, and larger hooks make it harder to hook a fish. The best baits to use are shrimp, sand fleas or small crabs like mud crabs or fiddler crabs. They need to be 12 inches and you are allowed to have 15 per person with no closed season.
Silver trout. It's another good winter time fish. They share the same artificial reefs as sheepshead and you also find them in the deeper water like the turning basin at the Alafia River, Weedon Island power plant channel and the Gandy boat ramp channel. The good thing is you can use the same setup for them that you're using for sheepshead, except a piece of shrimp on a hook is probably your best bet. And there are no size regulations on silver trout.
Tip: Sheepshead and silver trout are fun to catch but they both are bait stealers so you better bring lots of bait with you.
Capt. Jim Lemke charters out of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater and can be reached at (813) 917-4989 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.