Fabulous weather and light winds have made winter fishing a pleasure on Tampa Bay, leading trout and redfish to start feeding.
Speckled trout are cooperating and eagerly smash most soft-plastic jigs and live shrimp. On recent trips most of the trout were caught in water between 6 and 12 feet deep. Shrimp weighted with a small splitshot, fished very slowly or on the bottom, have produced nice specks. Chartreuse, shad-shaped soft-plastic jigs have enticed strikes, including some from redfish.
Redfish are congregating around many docks and canals. The baits that have worked for trout are equally effective on reds. When fishing the residential docks, remember that the closer the bait is to the dock, the better. Fish won't move far from a structure to nab a meal.
Fishing around docks requires a little heavier tackle than normally used for trout and redfish, because the fish usually head directly for the pilings. Keeping a good bend in the rod and using braided line keeps snapped lines to a minimum.
This type of fishing requires patience and a few extra hooks. The ideal would be to skip the bait underneath the dock, which is easier during low tides. Getting snagged often is expected.
Black sea bass are being caught on the edge of the main shipping channel from the Sunshine Skyway north almost to Gandy Bridge. White bucktails jigged just off of the bottom, or just about any type of cutbait, works for these tasty treats. Any rock pile or hard-bottom areas are likely sea bass hangouts. Our recent catches were in about 20 feet, and a few grouper have been caught in the same areas.
Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call (813) 310-6531 or e-mail at www.snookfish.com.