Captain Gavin O’Neil and his clients with sheepshead.

What cold few days in January to start the new year off. These cold fronts have really chilled the water down in the Tampa Bay, and the target fish showed how cold it was by shutting down, being very difficult to catch. A good thing about the water temperature drop is that the sheepshead are filling the coolers this year.

Sheepshead are found almost everywhere in the bay and residential canals right now. Shrimp and crabs give you a great bite for the convict fish. A 1/0 or #1 circle hook with just enough weight to keep the bait on the bottom is the favored approach.

Captain Gavin O’Neil has really been putting the smackdown on some good numbers of quality sheepshead this January for his clients. O’Neil is a local guide with many years of experience, as he has grown up in this area. He runs a great charter for his clients and really shows them an amazing time. He has been locating many of his fish around dock pilings and rocky drop-offs in the shipping channels, fishing with shrimp and #1 hooks. Check out O’Neil and book a trip for Apollo Beach Fishing Charters. Call 813-418-0225 or email at

Trout bite has been a little hit and miss, but key in on any remaining grass beds and drop-offs in residential canals. Shrimp will be the go-to bait in the winter times. Medium to large shrimp rigged with either a bobber or freelined in these areas may reward you with some tasty trout for dinner.

Many anglers are finding hogfish in nearshore ledges out of Egmont. Small weights to get down and small to medium shrimp are the best approaches to getting the bite. Some of these fish are getting quite large, so be prepared for a wonderful fight followed by an excellent dinner. Hogfish are quite the delicacy and, once located, are a great target in nearshore ledges in 40 to 60 feet of water this time of year.

Gag grouper are closed at this time, but the red grouper is open and located in very similar locations as the hogfish. Hand-sized pinfish are the best choice for grouper and a little stouter fishing pole.

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