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There is no better place to experience the winter while fishing than Tampa Bay. The stunning waterfronts, crystal clear waters, and abundant wildlife make Tampa Bay a premier destination for anglers of all skill levels. Whether you’re new to fishing or a seasoned pro, the winter months in Tampa Bay offer a unique fishing experience that you won’t find anywhere else. From the shallow flats of the Gulf of Mexico to the deep canals of the Bay, there’s something to fish for every day. With this guide, you’ll learn what type of fish is available, the best places to fish, and the gear you’ll need to make your trip a success. So grab your rod and reel and get ready for an unforgettable fishing adventure in the winter paradise of Tampa Bay.


Types of Fish To Target in the Winter throughout Tampa Bay

There are a variety of saltwater fish species you can fish for in Tampa Bay including redfish, snapper, grouper, and snook. Because of the cooler water; these fish are prone to be a little less active, but when they are hungry and bait is presented properly, they will still bite actively.

Snook are always a popular fish to catch in Tampa Bay, especially in the cooler months when we find them in the back bays and creeks. You’ll find these fish in the shallow waters of Tampa Bay, making them a great option for both beginners and experienced anglers alike. If you’re looking to put a few snook in the boat, then try the back bays and shallow waters near cuts and pot holes.

Grouper, commonly referred to as “the fish that swam in the mud”, is a prized catch for many anglers in Tampa Bay. If you’re looking to reel in a few of these delicious fish, try using a slower moving swimbait, or trolling lure. The grouper tend to shallow up on the edges of the channel over the rock piles during the cooler months.

redfish fishing in tampa during winter

Best Locations for Fishing in Tampa Bay During the Winter

There are many excellent locations to fish in Tampa Bay, but during the winter months we really focus on the shallow waters. With our boats we can get super shallow, and find those schools of reds, and snook waiting in the shallow waters for prey to come through and ambush. This is also a great time to fish off of docks if you do not have access to a boat! The winter months here in Florida provide ample opportunity to fish from docks and bridges, as you do not have to cast far to reach those deep waters, and channels.

The channel, even in winter months still provides great fishing opportunities, especially for grouper and snapper, which will be congregated up on rock piles and ledges. The best places to fish during winter months will be anywhere you happen to find bait! The bait tends to move into deeper waters during the winter months, but if you can find bait balls, and bait in the shallower waters, you will certainly find the gamefish not far away! However, the bait will more than likely be in deeper waters. The main objective during those really cold days in the winter is to focus mainly on warm structure, near seawalls, creeks and oyster bars.

redfish caught in tampa bay during winter

Necessary Gear for Fishing in Tampa Bay during winter

There are certain types of gear that are necessary for fishing in Tampa Bay, including properly outfitted fishing rod and reel, the right fishing line and particular bait. These pieces of gear are the building blocks for any successful fishing trip. Here are some additional items that you may want to consider bringing with you.

– A fishing license – All anglers under the age of 16 do not need a license. However, everyone else will need to purchase a fishing license. Fishing licenses can be purchased online or at your local tackle shop. You can also purchase a fishing pass that will allow you to fish in multiple locations throughout the year.

– We highly recommend a fast tip strong back boned spinning rod for fishing these shallow waters.

– You will want decent line strength as you will be regularly fighting these fish out of structure, and a large snook will pull drag from almost any spinning reel.

– Finally; we recommend utilizing slow moving artificial baits. Some of our favorite lures to use include the DOA shrimps, or slow moving swim bait. Working these slow just above the bottom will entice those game fish to attack. Remember during the winter months, if you think you are going to slow, go slower. The fish are very lethargic this time of year!

Winter time fishing offers great snook fishing

Winter Weather Challenges When Fishing

During the winter months, fishing can be challenging especially with the weather patterns we experience. Obviously it gets colder! But this colder weather allows for great fishing opportunities. Fish become more concentrated on rock points, or in shallow waters. During low tides in the winter, many of the species we are after are sitting in potholes where the water is warmer looking for bait to pass them. We also get really good feeding times for fish in the winter months due to the strong cold fronts that are more active. Fishing around these fronts will allow for some of the best producing fishing trips you can experience. Bright sunny days will also help warm the waters throughout the day which can lead to more active fish eating, and thus more hook ups.

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