It’s been gratifying to hear the feedback on cobia catching around the Big Bend Power Plant area in Apollo Beach. This year I again reminded you to check that area out over the holidays, and from your reports, it was truly a holiday for catching cobia. Thanks. It makes me feel good to steer you right for your catching enjoyment.
The water along South Shore is in full winter cold but you can still catch fish.
On the flats, when the days are cloudy, drift for trout. You can get good catching with darker top-water plugs just drifting over our abundant grass flats. No real need for live bait and it’s fun to actually catch something on artificial baits. Now is the time to do it.
If the sun comes out, switch to small jigs with curly tails or DOA shrimp for trout catching. No real reason to run all over the bay looking for a “hot spot” now. That spot is right here along South Shore.
Our low water flow in rivers couples with low winter tides to group redfish in the deeper potholes. Find them and you should catch fish. The Alafia River and Kitchen area between Apollo Beach and Gibsonton hold great fish if you can get to them over the shallow flats. Kayaks have the advantage now.
Sheepshead, grunt and snapper sure like shrimp pieces. Most of the deeper structure areas in the bay offer nice catching right now. They are good-eating too, which is what I like about catching them.
I recently gave some lessons in filleting sheepshead on the new table at Shell Point Marina. They’re not hard to clean if you start your knife in reverse on the fish. I start at the tail and work forward with my first cut. After that it’s quite easy. Don’t tell me sheepshead are hard to clean.
The red grouper season will remain open for harvest in state waters. In Federal waters it’s closed during February and March, along with most other grouper species. It’s hard to figure out the regulations so check the Gulf Council and the FWC sites on your computer before you go. It’s really the only way to find current information.
If you go on a party or head boat to fish the gulf, check to see if that boat is part of the new tag quota system. If so, you will be allowed to keep gag grouper right now, even though recreational boats do not have an open season until July 1. Not all boats are involved so call ahead when making reservations.
There are lots of opportunities for good fishing this time of year. So I say get out there and…
Catch ‘em up.
Larry Malinoski, aka the FishHawk, is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 469-7251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.