© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2003
The recent cold snap has lowered the water temperature to 54 degrees in some areas of Tampa Bay. Catching fish when it is this cold is possible, and if you prepare well you can be comfortable.
Live shrimp is the best bait, but don't rely on your local bait shop to have shrimp at all times. Soft plastic jigs can be just as effective.
A jig in a natural color with a shrimplike tail can save the day. Root beer, pink, light green and light brown have been the most productive. A jig head of an eighth of an ounce or less is preferred. Light spinning equipment with 6- or 8-pound test not only allows for long casts, but increases sensitivity dramatically.
Speckled trout are in deeper pockets adjacent to grass flats and in many residential canals. They will cooperate even on the coldest days. Fish jigs slowly to get more strikes.
Always bring an extra jacket or two. Usually someone in the party will forget extra clothes or try to be the tough guy. An hour or two into fishing, your buddy either will be begging to leave or offering you money for that extra jacket. Wool socks with rubber boots are helpful. Lined ski pants, which often are less expensive than traditional foul-weather gear and can be worn over your clothes, also are a good idea.
-- Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call (813) 831-0355.