© St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 2003
Trout fishing in lower Tampa Bay continues to be outstanding. Extremely low tides have pushed the action into the potholes that line the edge of the flats. When the water temperature falls below 60, look for trout to be concentrated in one hole. Drift the edge of the flats using jigs that are heavy enough to drag across the bottom. When you get a hookup, drop the anchor and work that area. Sometimes there only are a few trout in that spot. If you don't get a strike every other cast, pull the anchor and return to drifting. Sooner or later you'll run across a hole that's holding hundreds. When the water temperature hangs in the low 60s, the trout will start to spread out. If you're looking for big trout, work the areas that have a deep dropoff to the edge of the flats. Most of the productive areas had cormorants or porpoise working the dropoff.
Grouper fishing is starting to heat up over the deeper ledges. Capt. Steve Papen has been catching limits on pinfish in 130 feet. The hot action came on ledges that showed a large spike of fish on the recorder. He would drift the spot before dropping the anchor. Most of the grouper had empty stomachs and slammed every live bait. Most of the largest grouper are moving farther offshore to spawn. Watch the weather reports before heading offshore. This time of year it's better to go out with another boat.
-- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.