Beautiful weather and slightly warmer water have activated Tampa Bay's grass flats. Speckled trout are abundant and eager to bite. Adjusting to light or ultralight gear can heighten the experience.
In most areas, extremely light tackle can be used quite effectively for winter trout. Line as light as 4-pound break strength usually will get most fish to the boat. This time of year, few fish on the flats will empty your spool. Small diameter lines will help detect subtle strikes and offer a fun battle.
Live shrimp work well for cool-water trout. Small plastic jigs, both shrimp- and shad-shaped tails, are useful when searching for groups. Long casts can be made to cover more area. Deeper pockets or potholes on flats can concentrate fish. Recently, we were drifting the flats and discovered a depression about the size of a house. We steadily caught trout until we were content. Though the area was 2 feet deeper than the rest of the flat, it was enough to bunch them up.
It is courteous to the resource to bend down barbs or use circle hooks, especially with beginner anglers. Trout do not survive capture if handled roughly. A towel used to grab the fish is basically a death sentence. A wet hand is better. The best scenario is to not handle it at all. Grasp the hook or jig head firmly and shake the fish into the water. Avoid landing nets.
- Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call 813 310-6531 or e-mail at www.snookfish.com