By PETE KATSARELIS
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 19, 2000
Every year since the net bans, I've noticed a definite increase in trout populations as well as average size. This is a good sign for all flats species, because it shows the net bans are working. Trout have a quicker maturing rate than snook or redfish, so it makes sense we would see trout improvements first.
Before the net bans, an 18-inch trout was a prize. Over the past few winters, 18 inches is at the bottom of the average. In fact, now it's not uncommon to catch 50 trout more than 20 inches in a single outing.
Try casting soft plastic jigs on light spinning gear. The key to fishing the flats for trout in the winter is finding what depth at which the fish are concentrated.
On sunny days with clear water you can simply drive along until you see them.
On days that the water is a little stirred, set your drifts through different depths. Pay attention to how deep it is when you get your bites. Often you'll get the majority of your bites in one area or depth. Once this happens, concentrate your efforts at that depth.
Adjust the weight of your jighead and body accordingly. If the fish are deep, a 1/2-ounce or 3/8-ounce jighead with a smaller body seems to work well. When shallow, try using a 1/4-ounce or 1/8-ounce head. If your lure still doesn't stay out of the grass, try switching to a long-shank hook with a weedless worm body. This is especially effective when the trout are in 2 feet or less.
Remember, trout season for Florida's southwest region is closed for another two weeks. Take the time to remove the hook properly and release the fish in good form. If you catch fish in a legal area and decide to take some home, keep only those you'll eat that day. Frozen fish is best caught at the store.
- Pete Katsarelis fishes out of Tarpon Springs. Call (727) 439-FISH.