Having the ability to trailer your boat is a huge advantage when the weather makes locating fish more difficult. Throughout the year, I launch my boat close to where fishing is the best. Not only does this save on fuel but also on time running through what could be rough or dangerous water conditions. The gulf coast has some of the best public ramps in the state and the Florida Department of Natural Resources publishes maps with locations.
If you've had difficulty finding fish, you're looking in the wrong area. The cold fronts have pushed fish into deeper water. Check residential canals, deep pockets in creeks and rivers and, for the most action, power plant outflows. These outflows are magnets for every species. As you approach the power plant, watch the water surface temperature gauge and notice warmer readings long before you reach the shadows of the stacks. Start fishing on the break where the temperature starts to change.
Mackerel and bluefish like water temperatures around 70 degrees. Silverspoons retrieved as fast as possible will get the most bites. As the mercury slowly rises, target trout, redfish, snook, pompano or permit. Working a BC or three-eighths-ounce jig with curly or shad tails and slow sinking plugs using a slow to moderate retrieve will allow you to cover more water and catch more fish. Live shrimp also will produce if fished on the bottom with just enough split shot to hold it in the strike zone. Once you move closer, add cobia and tarpon to the list. As you reach temperatures near 80, be prepared to catch ladyfish, jacks, catfish and rays. Manatees, which you want to avoid, also frequent the hottest areas.
If you don't have a power plant near your home, there's a ramp close to one of these fish havens. So make the drive. You'll be glad you did.
_ Wade Osborne operates Afishionado Guide Services in Tampa; (813) 286-3474.