Can you believe it’s a brand new year and after today the holidays of 2013 are behind us? If you’re like me, you’ll have a few new fishing toys to try out. You know, the ones that have been sitting next to the Christmas tree that has to be taken down and put back into the attic.
Just as soon as the tree is out of our living room I’m headed fishing. Mid December brought us some very nice weather and the water temperatures have remained very mild. To have good fishing in January we need to have mild water temperatures.
When water temps dip into mid 60s, slowing down your presentation with both artificial and natural baits is one of the most important factors. Both January and February are excellent months to use live shrimp for bait. Hooked shrimp are slow movers and that is exactly what fish are looking for this time of year. Seems fish tend to get lazy when the water temperature drops. It has to do with their metabolism, which slows and makes them not want to work too hard for their food.
Both spotted sea trout and silver trout have been very active this past month. Look for sea trout in the deeper grass flats and some of the deeper spots of the Manatee and Little Manatee Rivers. I’ve found large numbers of silver trout in the ship channel from Apollo Beach south to Port Manatee. Shrimp or live pilchards work well for either species, but don’t pass up your favorite artificial soft plastic tails on a light jig head.
Redfish have been all over South Shore waters. Anglers fishing the Little Manatee River and Cockroach Bay have produced some impressive catch reports. Most redfish have been caught near the many oyster bars that fill the backcountry of Tampa Bay or in the deeper areas within the Little Manatee River. Try using a large shrimp under a bobber. One of my favorite’s artificial baits for redfish is a gold, ¼ ounce spoon. You can also work the spoon at different speeds. As I said earlier, slowing down your retrieve will improve your odds.
January and February are also the months that the sheepshead make a big showing. Find structure in deeper water and most likely you’ll find a good number of sheepshead hanging around. Shrimp combined with a little weight and a No. 2 or No. 4 hook will do the trick. Sheephead have a very light bite so be ready for their nibbles.
December’s fishing was very good and I’m optimistic that January’s bite will be even better. But you know what, it really doesn’t matter. I’ve got a new Ohero rod and reel that I can’t wait to try out. So no matter what, I’m going fishing.
Be safe out there.
Danny Guarino is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 956-2010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.