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January fishing forecast: North Suncoast

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 3, 2003

The key to success in January is to fish after a few days of mild weather.

Grabbing Grouper graphic
Because the flats off Citrus and Hernando counties are so shallow, they do not retain much heat in the winter and will be barren for most of the month. Therefore, efforts should be concentrated in the rivers and canals.

Trout, redfish, mangrove snapper and sheepshead will be the target species for inshore anglers. Cut baits will work for trout and redfish but will exclude sheepshead from biting. The best all-around bait this time of year is a live shrimp, since all predatory species respond to it.

Artificial baits, jigs in particular, will be most productive when they are "bumped" slowly along the bottom. Tipping a jig with a small section of shrimp will add scent and stimulate a more aggressive bite.

Anglers should focus their attention on residential docks and deeper areas of the canals and rivers.

The discharge at the Crystal River power plant will remain off limits to anglers.

To the south, the warm water discharge of the Anclote power plant will be the most productive spot in the area and will remain so throughout the winter. Pompano, permit, trout, red drum and mangrove snapper will ebb and flow according to nearby water temperatures. When temperatures rise a few degrees, these species will advance throughout the canal and on to the nearby flats. When temperatures drop, these species will recede to the warmth of the outflow source.

Early in the winter, soft eel replicas are the standard for catching cobia. As the winter progresses, and these fish have been pressured too much, they become more finicky. At this point, a change in bait or presentation is necessary to get a bite.

January will see grouper and snapper push farther offshore as gulf temperatures drop.

Citrus and Hernando anglers are catching grouper in 40-50 feet on those days that anglers can get offshore. As the month progresses and water temperatures fall, the grouper will take up residence in 70 feet.

The same holds true for anglers leaving out of Pasco county. Grouper action has been best in 60 feet for the past few weeks. By the end of January the best offshore fishing will be in mroe than 100 feet.

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