Winter Fishing in Tampa Bay Thus far (An in depth guide)

I've been on the water just about every week this winter and as the season progresses I have found that taking a tactical approach on the flats has helped me locate a consistent variety of fish. This winter has been relatively warm and with water temps still in the 70s, I'm finding fish on springtime patterns on mid-day moving tides. Unlike normal winter seasons I have been starting my days at or just after first light as the water is cooler and fish are stacked up on deep flats, troughs and creeks. As the day progresses I have found the fish are moving out to the flats and are willing to eat just about anything. (All Fish pictured were caught on artificial lures)

Jacks can be found early in the morning schooling. These fish will quite literally eat anything you throw at them. I have found these fish moving through channels near grass flats and near warm water runoff. Smaller jacks can be found throughout the day but the schools of bigger fish prefer the early morning moving tide.

If you’re targeting redfish temperature will play factor in finding fish. If you’re fishing colder temps you’ll find these fish stacked up in deeper creeks lined with mangrove cover to protect from the wind. Drag your bait along the bottom and you should have no issue finding these fish. If the temperature is warmer fish will generally move out to flats near their backwater hangouts. Look for small mangrove passes that near grass flats and fish the potholes.

Redfish will stage up on these small passes and wait for food on moving tides

Trout have been consistent and can be caught with ease. They can be found on deeper 3 to 7 foot grass flats with thick turtle grass bottom and potholes. I usually throw lures that resemble white bait such as a Mirrodine but I have found Mirrolure’s Lil Jon bait on a ¼ jig head bounced along the bottom will catch them consistently. A general rule of thumb is once you’ve caught one there’s many more in the vicinity so keep throwing.

Look for Trout in these vast grass flats with potholes

Snook have been the only species that I have noticed which for the most part have stuck to their winter patterns. I have found these fish push far back into the backcountry and even into many residential fresh water lakes. A good place to find these fish is somewhere with mangrove cover, and a deeper drop-off in the event the water temp cools overnight. Snook have been holding to these edges and a slow worked bait over the bottom will get the bite. Similar to trout these fish are usually stacked up in areas so if you land one keep fishing the same bottom.

As an added bonus to an overall great winter season I came across this Cobia fishing a deeper grass flat in about 5 ft of water. I was able to get him to eat a 4 inch paddle tail on a 1/4 jig head. (My preferred bait)

Thanks for reading


Sign In or Register to comment.