© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2003
Lower Tampa Bay to John's Pass has good numbers of trout on the edges of the flats. Low water temperatures have moved most into 3-6 feet, and jigs dragged across the bottom draw strikes during strong tides. Drifting allows you to cover areas faster, important because most trout congregate in one spot and can be found by drifting. As the tide rises, look for big trout to move onto the flats.
Redfish can be found tailing in 1-2 feet, with sunrise the most productive time. You need to get out of the boat and stalk them on foot. Wade within casting distance and wait for the tails to pop up. Their heads are down in the grass, and they won't see your cast. Use a light rod with 10-pound line and a 20-pound leader. Tail-hook a live shrimp and cast it over the fish. With the tip high, retrieve the bait until it's close to the fish and wait for your line to move before setting the hook. These are spooky fish, and it usually takes more than a few tries to hook them.
Sheepshead are moving into the gulf to spawn. They will be on the artificial reefs, rock piles and structure closest to the beach. Most of these weigh 3-7 pounds. A 20-pound outfit and 30-pound leader should be enough tackle.
-- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.