By Jason Prieto
January 1 was the start of winter for Tampa Bay and we have been blasted with cold fronts every three to five days. Fortunately for people that fish Tampa Bay, we have plenty of warm water refuge from Power Plants with warm water discharge to the springs feeding the river systems. Tampa provides some great winter weather fishing.
Sheepshead really take center stage this time of year as they use the residential canals, reefs and wrecks to spawn. There are various ways to target sheepshead and all work good but some can be a bit involved. I like to take the easy road and that’s using smaller shrimp mixed with a #1 super sharp daiichi circle hook. You can even use pieces of shrimp. As stated earlier these fish get on the reefs, docks and wrecks that are all over the bay so finding a good spot isn’t that difficult. Simply drop your shrimp down with the adequate amount of weight depending on depth and tide and get ready for some great fishing. Sheepshead are known to be great at stealing bait so you will want to bring a bunch of shrimp.
Trout are also a hot fish to target going into February. You can expect to catch a ton of fish on the flats using both live and artificial baits. My preferred method is using artificial bait when targeting Trout in the winter. Some of my favorite Trout rigs consist of the Mirrolure Mirrodine 17MR BCH. This is sinking suspending twitch bait and the Trout absolutely love it. And great option would have to be a soft plastic Mirrolure Lil Jon. Match this with a 1/8 once Jig head on the shallows. Remember the cooler the water the slower you will work the baits.
Redfish is another great option this time of year. While you won’t find too many big schools of fish roaming the flats, you can have a blast catching the smaller reds around the creeks, docks and rivers. I like to use a select size shrimp on either a free line or add a split shot to get it down. Reds love shrimp and many other crustaceans and they work great for the winter time since they are slow moving bait. Take advantage of the bad weather days and get you boat and gear in good shape and ready for spring because it will be here before you know it.