Cold weather and lots of rain have brought inshore fishing to a crawl.
It probably won't be worthwhile to go out until the weather clears and we have a succession of mild days.
When that happens, sheepshead, redfish and trout should be the species to target.
These fish are the most tolerant to cold water, so they will rebound the quickest. The usual winter haunts should produce best.
After a few warm days, up-river oyster bars probably will lead to sheepshead and small reds. Try using a trolling motor to maneuver around casting jigs to the edges of the bars and dark muddy spots.
The mud retains the sun's heat so fish often are drawn to those areas this time of year. Bring your retrieve in slow, creeping it across the bottom. Tipping the jig with a small piece of shrimp may increase production.
One of my favorite techniques is anchoring about casting distance off an oyster bar.
Take a light-tackle rig with about 3 feet of 20-pound leader and a Size-2 hook, then put a live or freshly dead shrimp on it. Place a small split-shot on the leader about 2 feet from the bait.
Cast the shrimp onto the bar, then slowly begin to bump the bait back to the boat. If it happens to get stuck, ease it loose by applying constant pressure. Don' jerk sharply because more likely than not you will snap the line.
This method is extremely effective for redfish and sheepshead.
The noise of the split shot bumping across the oyster bars seems to be just enough to draw attention. When the fish swim over to investigate, they're pleasantly surprised with a nice luscious shrimp.
Once the fish is hooked, keep the rod tip high so the line doesn't drape across any oysters. When there's a lot of tension in the line, it doesn't take much to cut it. Braided lines will help reduce the risk of getting cut off and provide a better feel for the bite due to their sensitivity.
The warm-water outflow by Anclote Power Plant will be holding some permit and pompano.
The most productive lure seems to be soft jigs _ the smaller the better. Cast up current and retrieve the jig with short, sharp twitches.
Anglers probably will get plenty of action from ladyfish and jack as well.
All these species flood into the canal for refuge during the harshest winter days. The best chance for success seems to be early in the morning, before too many boats get there.
Offshore anglers need to go farther out to achieve success.
Recent reports indicate that depths less than 90 feet are futile. Beyond that, snapper and grouper action has been mediocre. Cut baits and lots of patience will work.
The last few weeks have been harsh. The good news is that March is about four weeks away. Traditionally, it's the month when the fishing begins to pick up.
So bear down a little longer. At least it is not snowing.
_ Pete Katsarelis charters out of Tarpon Springs and can be reached at (727) 439-3474 or pkatsarehelios.acomp.usf.edu.