Fishing Around Tampa Bay (Feb. 15)

Published: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 4:46 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 4:46 a.m.

1 | At Big Pier 60 in Clearwater, fishing was pretty good over the past week until the cold front arrived on Wednesday, with sheepshead, flounder, bluefish, whiting, Spanish mackerel, silver trout, seatrout and black sea bass, reports Kelly Dacey. Water temperature 68 at noon Thursday, up 6 degrees from last week.


Strike Zone Areas: 1 , 2 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 'elsewhere'

2 | At Madeira Beach, the February-March closure of grouper in the Gulf, not to mention foul weather, is keeping bottom fishing trips down. But there's mangrove snapper, grunts and triggerfish in 40-60 feet, and decent sheepshead and flounder on and around reefs and rock piles in 30-40 feet when seas permit.

3 | At John's Pass, the developing spring bite on the flats was knocked back with the return of chilly weather. Look for good-sized trout on the flats along the Intercoastal and down through Boca Ciega Bay on the next warming trend. Sheepshead around docks in the bay on shrimp rigged on jig-heads.

4 | At Fort DeSoto Park, improving bites for gator trout and redfish will be set back by the cold front, but resume once the wind settles down.

5 | Around the Sunshine Skyway and lower Tampa Bay, flats fishing was pretty consistent for upper-slot and 20-inch-class trout and slot redfish until the cold front arrived. The water temperature was up to 70 degrees on the flats, but it will probably drop to near 60 by the first of next week, sending trout, reds and snook back toward protected canals and creeks until it warms back up. Spanish mackerel around both Skyway piers.

6 | At Anna Maria, Capt. Justin Moore of Holmes Beach (941-720-6408) is in wintertime mode with cold fronts coming through regularly. He's drifting the flats with anglers casting MirrOlure Lil John jerkbaits (watermelon glitter) on 1/4-ounce MirrOlure jig-heads with screw-on bait-keepers, or large live shrimp, for trout 18-24 inches with occasional pompano, bluefish and Spanish mackerel along the way. Moore also fishing passes and off the beaches out to near-shore reefs for good numbers of sheepshead, with limits of fat 14-inchers Wednesday on live shrimp. Spanish mackerel 2-3 pounds a little early, but arriving off the beaches with bluefish mixed in. Moore said kingfish are showing up way offshore.

7 | At St. Petersburg, Dr. David Bower, his father and son Tom from Lakeland joined Capt. Jason Lineberger Sunday for a half-day trip catching nice trout on D.O.A. jerkbaits (pearl shad with chartreuse tail). Lineberger (813-363-9474) said trout action has been decent to good in potholes on the flats with artificials and live bait, but high winds are muddying up the water and taking a toll on the redfish bite. Trout 15-18 inches are consistent on jerkbaits and jigs at Pinellas Point, but there have been several over 20 inches on greenbacks around Weedon Island. Sheepshead and mangrove snapper going strong when it's not too windy.

8 | In the north end of Tampa Bay, sheepshead will be the best, and perhaps only, bet for the next few days around pilings at Courtney Campbell and Howard Frankland on shrimp or fiddler crabs.


- On the Space Coast, mangrove snapper and sheepshead top catches at Port Canaveral, reports Capt. Keith Mixon of Lakeland ( Snapper up to 13 inches on leeward side of jetties, locks and other structure throughout Port on live shrimp fished on the bottom — Mixon's using a 1/4-ounce split-shot just above the bait to keep it in strike zone. Sheepshead averaging 11 inches feeding throughout Port as well as Indian and Banana rivers on small jig-heads tipped with shrimp or fiddler crabs around barnacle-covered pilings and bridge fenders. A few redfish 18-20 inches in protected areas like the Thousand Islands located along eastern shoreline of Banana River casting scented jerkbaits or live shrimp rigged weedless near mangrove shorelines with steep drop-offs.

- At Fort Pierce, snook 34-40 inches pretty good on live bait on incoming tides at night in Turning Basin, and day and night in the inlet, reports Adam White at the Fishing Center of St. Lucie (772-465-7637). White said there's not many slot fish 28-32 inches. Gator trout starting to bite pretty good tossing pilchards or greenbacks under popping corks in deep holes around mangroves in the river. White took a charter ( out Wednesday for a 5-pound and 9-pound trout, and Capt. Charlie Conner has been doing likewise. Bunch of redfish around docks on west side of river with live shrimp on jig-heads or Berkley Gulp! Shrimp, but sheepshead tapered off around docks. Pompano fishermen coming up empty for pomps, but getting a bunch of croakers and whiting in the surf at Blind Creek on clams. White said this week's cold weather should move more pompano south — they've been pretty good from Sebastian north. Offshore pretty dismal, except for cobia, with rough seas ruling. Sporadic dolphin 15-35 pounds in 200-400 feet trolling rigged ballyhoo when you can get out, but sailfish really slow — White said tournament numbers are down 40-60 percent from last year because of the lack of cold weather. Late last week, cobia up to 60-70 pounds were within a mile of the beaches in 30-40 feet, with anglers sight-fishing crabs or big live mullet. Not much going on with bottom fishing with grouper closed.

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