As water temperatures drop, fish in Tampa Bay are settling into winter patterns.
Recent cold fronts have been stronger than usual this time of year. If the fronts spread out a little we'll get consecutive days of good weather, instead of a few hours.
Redfish can tolerate the cold and continue to feed through the winter. Live shrimp or soft-plastic jigs worked slowly can yield nice fish. Reds tend to bunch up this time of year, and if you find the right spots, numerous fish can be caught as long as boat noise is eliminated.
Look for reds in residential canals and around docks or close to oyster mounds adjacent to deep water. On a recent trip we caught 18 reds holding near a clump of oysters no bigger than a small car.
Spotted sea trout are out of season until January, so if you find a good batch of specks it's not a bad idea to bend down the barbs on hooks, making release much easier. Usually a small shake releases these fish unharmed.
Trout are more delicate than other species, and it's a good idea not to handle fish out of season. If trout must be handled use a wet hand, not a rag.
Ultra-light equipment for trout is best. Light gear yields more strikes and is an absolute blast to use. Very subtle hits can be detected, and the fight obviously beats that of heavier equipment.
- Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call 813 310-6531 or e-mail at www.snookfish.com