© St. Petersburg Times, published February 19, 2003
Flats fishing from John's Pass to lower Tampa Bay is better. Water temperatures have risen to the mid 60s. This will spark a feeding frenzy in trout, redfish and snook. The trout will move out of deeper holes that line the outside edge of the flats and reposition in potholes on the flats. The most productive area will be the first 50 feet of the flats. Jigs worked across the edge of the potholes draw the most strikes. The best action is during a tidal movement.
Redfish are feeding around oyster bars during high tide. They can be found tailing outside oyster bars during low tide. Wading with a free-lined shrimp is the best way to catch reds during lower tides. The high profile of your boat spooks most shallow-water reds. Use a corked shrimp when fishing over oyster bars. A small split shot near the hook will keep the shrimp from jumping out of the water when a redfish moves in to feed.
Back bay canals are holding snook; warmer water will make them feed a little more aggressively. Small crank baits, hair jigs and jerk baits will draw strikes if you work patiently. Sight fishing is more productive than blind casting. When you can see the snook you can present the lure without spooking the school.
Sheepshead fishing has been outstanding over the rockpiles that line shallow areas of the gulf. The water has been so clear fish are visible swimming in the rocks. Chum the rocks with cut shrimp. If you don't see sheepshead moving up to eat the chum, try a different rockpile.
-- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.