By: Capt. Danny Guarino
February, and we are all hopeful that warmer weather is on the way. February usually is a transition month for fish and their feeding patterns. In the early part of the month winter fishing rules apply but as we get into the later part of the month spring tactics are more inline, or so they should be. I have noticed over the last few years that the cooler weather has trended a later start and holds on a little later than what I remember it to be.
I always say in my winter fishing forecast, “follow a few key rules and you can vastly improve your catch ratio”. Slowing down your presentation both with artificial and natural baits is one of the most important factors. Picking your day to fish is another key factor. I like to fish 2 days after the passage of a cold front and fish right up to the passage of the next cold front. As we get later into the month of February, I become more dependent on live pilchards as bait. I have found that as our game fish transition into spring they crave more and more protein and are more inclined to chase the more active baits we present.
The snook action in January was a little slower than I like but we still managed to catch a few. Snook seek out warmer water such as springs, rivers and power plants with warm water runoff, as the water begins to warm later in the month snook will begin to transition towards the many passes found in the Tampa Bay area. Snook season is closed in the southern region of the state, if you catch a snook it will have to be returned to the water. Please handle them with care. I believe that Snook season will reopen later this fall. Please check www.myfwc.com for the area you plan to fish for season time frames and bag limits.
Trout have been very active this past month. Look for them in the deeper grass flats and some of the deeper spots of the Manatee and Little Manatee Rivers. Try fishing trout with some of the soft plastic artificial baits. DOA makes some very good plastic’s one of my favorites is the DOA paddle tail. It works well this time of year because you can fish it at different speeds. Again, if the water temperatures trend cooler slow down your retrieve. Trout season is closed south of Tarpon springs but will re-open in late May. Again, please check www.myfwc.com for the area you plan to fish for season time frames and bag limits
Redfish can be found near the many oyster bars that fill the back country of Tampa Bay or in the deeper swash areas on the outer sand bars that line both the east and west side of Tampa Bay. Try using a large shrimp or pilchard under a bobber. One of my favorite’s artificial baits for redfish is a gold ½ oz. spoon. You can also work the spoon at different speeds. I usually slow my retrieve down when fishing the colder months of the year. Redfish season is closed but will re-open in late May in some areas. Once again, please check www.myfwc.com for the area you plan to fish for season time frames and bag limits.
January through early March are the months that sheephead 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 a # 2 or # 4 hook will do the trick. Remember the old saying if you feel the bite it’s too late to set the hook. Sheephead have a very slight bite so be ready. Sheepshead are excellent table fare but can be a challenge to clean.
January’s fishing was bit on the poor side, but I am very optimistic that the Februarys bite will be much better. All will be dependent on the weather.
If you can, get out and enjoy this great place we live in. The Southshore of Tampa Bay has some of the best fishing Florida has to offer but remember it’s not the number of fish you put in the fish box that makes a successful trip. Measure you’re fishing success by the number of smiles you receive by going fishing.
Contact Information for Captain Danny Guarino
Capt. Danny Guarino is a lifelong resident of the Tampa area and semi-retired fishing guide on Tampa Bay. If you are looking to hire a Charter Captain in the Tampa Bay area give Capt. Danny a call. He has an extensive network of long-term proven Tampa Bay Fishing Guides all are insured and licensed. Let Capt. Danny take the guess work out of finding a fishing guide.
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