All anglers, no matter if they are fishing from the bank with a cane pole or trolling from a 41 Luhrs, want to avoid going home empty-handed. That's a given. But there is one ingredient that separates the successful anglers from all the rest — timing.
It took me a long time to realize fish can be caught at a variety of locations. But the real trick to fishing is being at that particular place at the right time.
During the winter here in the Tampa Bay area, fishing both sides of the low tide is highly productive, especially around the new and full moon periods. During these moon phases, tides are lower, thus concentrating fish in "deep" pools or pockets. Remember, deep is a relative term, and deep water might only be a foot or two deeper than the surrounding water. No matter, it's deeper, and when fish are looking for cover, they'll search out these deeper areas.
Now, this is when timing comes into play. The way to predict the best fishing times in your area (when the tide is low) is to use a tide chart. Most local tackle stores carry some sort of tide chart, and the tides for the whole month can be found the first Friday of every month here in this Gulf & Bay pullout section.
Fish relate to structure or inconsistencies in bottom terrain. Some of these deep areas may have seagrass beds, some may have docks or mangroves. But, there is one thing that all of the deep water areas have in common — a drop-off. Some drop-offs are gradual and some are rapid. But you can bet the fish will be right on the edge of that drop-off.
The most productive technique for fishing drop-offs depends on current movement. If the tide is running from shallow to deep, the best method is to cast your offering up current in the shallows and allow it to drift naturally over the edge and into the deep water. If the tide is running from deep to shallow, just do the opposite. Cast to the deep water and bring it up to the shallows. Remember, fish like to point their nose into the current.
Typically, this technique is best suited for artificial bait, but that doesn't mean a free-lined live bait won't work. Tossing a light jig will cover more water and will find the fish faster than a live bait presentation. Popular jig colors are root beer, glow, and new penny.
Live shrimp should be large enough to cast without any weight. Hook the shrimp under the horn so it lands with its head facing you. Slowly retrieve it. If you're lucky enough to have whitebait or greenbacks, hook those through the nose and retrieve them the same way.
Some of the more accessible areas to find these deep water drop-offs are at Fort DeSoto Park at the southern end of Pinellas County and Weedon Island. The clam bar area of the Skyway Bridge is good, and so is Pinellas Point.