The recent strong cold fronts have changed the game in Tampa Bay. Fish are on the move and will start to be really finicky. Winter fishing requires some extra patience as well as a nice warm jacket.
What's Hot: There have been some good catches as well as reports of complete failure. The fish that have been the most cooperative are spotted sea trout. The "specks" tolerate the cold well and tend to bunch up in holes and feeder creeks to Tampa Bay. Some cobia and pompano are being caught as well past the Apollo Beach power plant outflow.
Tip: When using artificial lures this time of year, it is crucial to use a slow retrieve. Cold fish tend to be lethargic and will not exert much energy to feed. Jigs should be fished just fast enough to keep it off of the bottom. Hard lures should be moved at a slow rate, also to maximize positive results.
Seasonal: The snook fishery has improved dramatically after a few brutally cold winters back to back that were basically catastrophic to the species.
They are pushing up into rivers now like the Manatee and Hillsborough. Snook, big ones, will work their way far up into fresh water systems. The U.S. 301 bridge and points further upstream in the Manatee can and will yield abundant winter snook.
In the Hillsborough River, they can be found from Lowry Park all the way to the dam at Rowlette Park.
Rivers should be navigated carefully. There are many shallow twists and turns in these areas and the water is also stained from tannins from rotting leaves and other vegetation. This gives the creeks and rivers their characteristic "tea" colored water.
Captain Dave Walker charters out of Tampa and can be reached at (813) 310-6531 or at www.snookfish.com.