As we continue to battle the winter cold fronts, water temperatures just wonít come up. They hover in the 60-degree range and some of the targeted species such as redfish and mackerel just havenít shown up in the numbers that we typically see this time of year.
On the other hand, the cooler weather has kept other species like trout and snook feeding heavily while they stay in their early winter patterns. South Shore waters hold numerous spots for both species, which make for some awesome fishing.
Cooler water temperatures mean everything is still behind schedule. This includes the bait run.
This time of year, we normally start to see the bait move from the mouth of Tampa Bay and show up in various range markers throughout the bay and eventually make its push onto the flats.
This year, it just hasnít happened, as our bait fish are still hanging out in deeper water around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This can be a pain, but itís all about supply and demand.
No bait on the flats means the fish are going to be hungry, and having a well full of greenbacks is the first ingredient to having a stellar day on the water. As mentioned previously, bait is in deeper water, so if you plan on netting bait, make sure you have the right tools for job. Youíll need a 3/8-inch mesh, 10- to 12-foot diameter net with lots of weight to get it down fast. Pick up either a Calusa or Lee Fisher Bait Buster bait net before you head out to make the job easy.
Snook fishing has been good as long as you fish around a moving barometer.
Greenbacks are the bait of choice. Snook are suckers for them, especially in the winter. Water clarity is very clear so downsizing your leader line to 25-pound Ohero Fluorocarbon will help get more hook-ups on slow days. Free-lining greenbacks in potholes on low tides continues to be very successful.
Trout are not affected too much by the cooler weather and seem to bite best in water temps in the mid 60s. Fishing potholes on the lower tides has been productive, but the only different technique Iíve used with trout is using the Cajun Thunder Back Bay float to trigger the bite.
Trout love noise and the Cajun Thunder floats make plenty. They also love artificial baits, and at times they can be more productive than live bait. You can cover more ground in less time when throwing artificial lures. Trout are not as picky as snook.
There are a bunch of artificial baits that work, and I always urge people to use the bait they have. Iíve caught fish day in and day out with the Z-Man PadZ matched with a 1/8- ounce jig head in pearl white. This is a simple rig, but very good for trout.
Remember, trout are very delicate, so if youíre not going to keep them, try not to handle them too much.