© St. Petersburg Times, published January 6, 2002
When the water temperature drops below 60, trout concentrate over grass flats 4-6 feet deep. The most productive spots have a shallow flat within a few hundred yards. Deep grass holds trout of 1-3 pounds but edges of shallows can have a few more than 5. There may be a few big ones in deep spots but they're harder to catch.
Smaller trout outnumber big ones 100-1 and strike without thinking. Use a quarter- to half-ounce jig over deeper areas and a weedless jerk bait on the edges of shallow grass. Look for cormorants working the surface. That spot will hold a few baits that can be hard to find during winter.
Pompano and sheepshead are around bridges, docks and rockpiles. Scrape a few barnacles off the pilings to create a chum line. Shrimp, clams, oysters and barnacles work great on sheepshead. Fish during the last hour of the tide, through the slack and into the next tide. Work a small, yellow-tipped with shrimp for pompano.
Grouper fishing in Tampa Bay is very productive. Troll rockpiles in 10-20 feet and the ship channel will help you locate the fish. Use a No. 3 planner, pulling a large plug for the channel and big-lipped deep-diving plugs for shallower water. Most productive is when the tide is slow or slack.
-- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.