By DAVE WALKER
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001
As hard as it is to believe, water temperatures have come up significantly in the past few days in Tampa Bay. This has made the fish more active and hungry. Schools of redfish are starting to move onto the flats. The afternoon seems to be the best time to catch these early birds. They are eagerly taking shrimp and jigs. If conditions don't change dramatically, fishing should get better as spring approaches.
Snook are beginning to feed actively in the extreme backwater areas. It will not be long until they move onto the flats as well. Residential canals have been producing small snook. Once again, live shrimp is your best bet.
Sheepshead are everywhere. They can be caught in great numbers almost anywhere there is structure. Bridges, rock piles and old docks are a good place to start looking. Scraping barnacles and oysters off pilings will draw them to you. Fiddler crabs, shrimp and oysters work great for bait. Bring plenty of bait; these bandits are notorious for stripping hooks bare without being felt.
Small stout hooks work best for these fish. Silver trout and whiting are lining the bottom of ship channels in Tampa Bay. I like the channel that leads to the Weedon Island power plant. Tandem jigs tipped with a small piece of shrimp will catch your dinner. Let it sink to the bottom, and reel it in slowly. Set the hook on anything that feels weird. The strikes sometimes are subtle. It is not unusual to catch two at a time using this method.
Speckled trout are moving out of the holes and into areas that have deep grass. They are taking a variety of baits. Soft plastic jigs and sinking lures have produced really nice fish.
- Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call (813) 831-0355.