Fishing Around Tampa Bay (Feb. 22)


Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 12:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

1 | At Big Pier 60 in Clearwater, last week's cold front knocked the water temperature down 6 degrees from last week to 62 on Thursday at noon, but sheepshead don't mind. Nice sheepies around the pilings on shrimp. Also flounder, silver trout, seatrout and black sea bass, reports Kelly Dacey.

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Strike Zone Areas: 1 , 2 , 4 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 'elsewhere'

2 | At Madeira Beach, mangrove snapper biting really good in 40 feet, with fish up to 4 pounds, reports Capt. Dane Karcher (727-647-6919) of John's Pass. Larger mangroves, 4-6 pounds, in 60-80 feet. Karcher anchoring up and using pieces of shrimp on knocker rigs with 1- to 3-ounce weights depending on tide movement. Sheepshead from 1-2 pounds up to 5-6 pounds are spawning and good bet in 20-45 feet around reefs, ledges and rock piles. Karcher catching plenty of Key West grunts and some hogfish in 40 feet. Large triggerfish coming in on commercial boats from well offshore — triggerfish will be out of season June 1 to July 31 and new FWC rules call for a two-fish limit for recreational anglers in state waters that is expected to be applied to federal waters as well.

3 | At John's Pass, pretty good sheepshead bite around bridge pilings and docks on pieces of shrimp. Trout best bet on the flats.

4 | At Fort DeSoto Park, sheepshead are in their prime, nibbling shrimp, fiddler crabs and oysters off the hooks around bridge pilings, docks, hard bottom and at the piers. Flats action for trout held up despite the plunge in water temperatures, and redfish should be improving where the mullet are running.

5 | Around the Sunshine Skyway and lower Tampa Bay, gator trout didn't mind the cold snap. Capt. Shawn Crawford of Lakeland (941-747-3856) reports almost three limits of trout 18-19 inches Thursday on greenbacks, with several 24-26 inches released. His anglers also released a bunch of snook 24-25 inches on the flats where the water was warmest. Crawford said the water was anywhere from 62 early to 70 in the afternoon in back bays. Redfish were hard to come by, just three 22-23 inches. Crawford said reds were showing good before the cold front, with several 26-32 inches last Thursday and Friday. Most anglers are using shrimp, but greenbacks can be netted at the Skyway as long as the water's over 63 degrees, Crawford said. He saw two cobia on the flats, one large and one undersized, but couldn't get a bait to them in time.

6 | At Anna Maria, sheepshead have been solid on near-shore reefs for Capt. Justin Moore of Holmes Beach (941-720-6408), and they're also around the bridges in Sarasota Bay. Quality-sized trout are the best bet on the flats with jerkbaits, jigs, live shrimp and greenbacks. More catch-and-release snook will be easing out of canals and protected areas if the warming trend continues.

7 | At St. Petersburg, the water temperature is coming back up slowly after last week's front with cool mornings still in effect. Capt. Jason Lineberger (813-363-9474) advises adjusting your species to match the conditions. He's targeting sheepshead, mangrove snapper, trout and flounder, which are more consistent as well as good for the table. Sheepshead and mangrove snapper around bridges and rock piles on shrimp.

8 | In the north end of Tampa Bay, sheepshead season may wind down soon if it keeps warming up, but they're still going strong around pilings at Courtney Campbell and Howard Frankland, and smaller bridges and docks, on shrimp or fiddler crabs.

Elsewhere:

- On the Space Coast, fishing slowed a bit but there's still black drum and sheepshead, reports Capt. Keith Mixon of Lakeland (www.mixinworkwithplay.com). Black drum 16-21 inches inshore and around Port Canaveral first few hours of the day along channel drop-offs and spoil islands in 3-4 feet on fresh-cut bait, live shrimp or scented jerkbaits (Bass Assassin's Fire Tiger 5-inch Sea Shad) rigged on 1/4-ounce jig-heads. Mixon using 7-foot medium action spinning reel combo with 20-pound-test braided line and 15-pound mono leader for drum. Keeper sheepshead throughout region on small jig-heads tipped with shrimp or fiddler crabs. Mixon said a stealth-like approach is a must.

- At Fort Pierce, snook fishing really good in the inlet day or night on outgoing tides, with a lot of slots this week along with larger fish up to 40 inches, reports Adam White at the Fishing Center of St. Lucie (772-465-7637). By day, it's pinfish and pigfish anchored up or drift fishing. At night, feather jigs. With cold snap, there was a decent push of pompano in river Tuesday and Wednesday around open-water bars on west side by "Power Lines'' on live shrimp, mostly while trout fishing with popping corks, but a few on D.O.A. Shrimp for Capt. Charlie Conner. Redfish still chewing good under docks on live shrimp or cut ladyfish on jig-heads. Big ladyfish 25-30 inches invaded the river and will eat anything, including green Don's Jigs, for those who want to stretch a line, and there's bluefish mixed in. Trout tapered off during cold snap but should pick up — water warmed 7 degrees Monday to Wednesday and still rising. Offshore, bottom fishing good for nice mangrove snapper and occasional mutton snapper on live bait in 60-90 feet, but grouper closed. Sailfish kind of slow, but was good off Jupiter and Palm Beach during front.

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