The conditions: January is one of the toughest times of the year for fishing in Tampa Bay. Frequent strong cold fronts and the associated wind that can howl for days on end all make for difficult conditions. But difficult does not mean impossible. Those willing to brave the elements or sneak away from responsibility on the really nice days have been catching fish.
What's hot: Speckled trout are still the most cooperative fish right now. Members of the drum family, such as redfish, have a higher tolerance for chilly water temperatures. They will nail a soft, plastic jig fished very slowly. The ideal zone in the water column for winter jig fishing is just off the bottom.
Tip: A slow retrieve with any type of artificial should be used during this time of year. The metabolic rates of fish slow dramatically when it is cold, thus diminishing their need for food. They still need to eat, and will, but they will not exert much energy to do so.
Variety: Sheepshead are another fish that deals with the cold. They are a delicious fish that love to hang around residential docks and canals in the winter. They love live shrimp or fiddler crabs fished right under or next to the structure. "Sheepies" or "bandits" as they are sometimes called based on their jail-suit appearance have very pronounced black vertical stripes. Not to mention, they are very sneaky and are master bait stealers. The shelter of the canal systems makes them a viable species to target on windy days.
Dave Walker charters out of Tampa and can be reached at (813) 310-6531 or at snookfish.com.