February, and it looks like the weather will continue to cooperate. Mid-January brought us some genuinely nice, albeit cool weather. As a result, the water temperatures have remained low to mid 60’s, on the warm side compared to what it could be for January. February is usually a transition month for fish. In the early part of the month, winter fishing rules apply, and as we head for March, we begin looking toward our springtime fishing spots.
What I mean when I say springtime spots are the spots that the three main targeted species (Snook, Trout, and Redfish) will be headed to as the water temperatures rise. I look for these fish on or near the grass flats and deeper passes along the outer edges of the mangrove islands that create the magnificent fishery we all enjoy throughout the Southshore of Tampa Bay.
With water temperatures still a bit cool, slowing down your bait presentation both with artificial and natural baits will improve your catch ratios. In early February, I like to use live shrimp for bait. Shrimp seem to move a little slower; as we approach the latter part of the month, I switch over to the more active baits like live pilchards or greenbacks. I have found that as fish transition into spring, they crave more and more food and are more inclined to chase more active baits.
The snook action in January was much better than expected. During the cold season, Snook seek out warmer water typically found in rivers and the deeper parts of the bay. As we approach the latter part of February snook begin to migrate out of their winter spots and move onto the shallower waters closer to the mangrove island. It is this area I like to fish until late June or early July. Please remember that snook season is closed on the west coast of Florida, so if you catch one, it will have to be returned to the water.
Spotted sea trout have been active this past January. Trout season is closed on the West coast of Florida so only catch and release. Trout are a delicate fish so if you catch one please handle it with care.
Redfish have not been so active this past month, but I expect that to change as we head towards March. Try using a large shrimp, Pin Fish, or pilchard under a bobber while fishing areas that have oyster bars nearby. I like setting up near the oyster bar and place my bait in the deeper area that typically surround the bar.
I cannot go into February without a mention of Sheaphead. January is one of the months that sheep head make a big showing. Find structure in deeper water and most likely you will find a number of sheepshead hanging around. Shrimp combined with a little weight and a # 2 or # 4 hook will do the trick. Sheaphead have a very light bite so be ready.
January’s fishing was very good, and I am very optimistic that the Februarys bite will be even better. All will be dependent on the weather.
If you can, get out and enjoy this great place we live in. The Southshore has some of the best fishing Florida has to offer but remember it is not the number of fish you put in the fish box that makes a successful trip. Measure your fishing success by the number of smiles you receive by going fishing.
Capt. Danny Guarino a lifelong resident of the Tampa area and a 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 guesswork out of finding a fishing guide
Be safe out there.
The Photo is of Patrick Latzanich with a snook caught in the backcountry of Tampa Day on a very late fall day.
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