Most places in the country this time of year are covered with snow and put their fishing gear up till the spring. Meanwhile in the Tampa Bay area we are enjoying plenty of sunshine and mild temperatures. This mixed with some awesome inshore fishing makes this one of the best places to spend winter.
As we enter the month of February we start to see some changes towards spring time fishing. Snook fishing starts to pick up as fish ease towards the river mouths and get ready to invade the pristine flats and backcountry of Tampa Bay. The key to catching Snook is having live Sardines.. It can be a challenge but can be found in deeper water around the towers and markers. Using a big heavy net is key as water is gin clear and deep. The Humpback 12 foot extra heavy will get the job done on those hard to get bait days. Targeting potholes on the flats is an excellent start and is a proven way to catch Snook this month. Try and fish on the warmer days and starting a little later will also help when targeting Snook.
Trout fishing is also great this time of year as the big girls move out on the outer flats to spawn. Trout seem to like both live bait and artificial baits, you can’t go wrong with a Cajun Thunder and a live select sized shrimp. Another great option is a Z Man minnowZ or PladdlerZ on a ¼ once Jighead pearl white in color. Trout this time of year also move shallow. Potholes surrounding shallow areas are great places to target for thoses gator. Drifting the flats and fan casting an area is a proven way to both cath fish and cover area.
Most redfish are coming out of the deeper creeks and rivers this time of year. You will find a mix of small rat Reds mixed in with a few lunker sized fish. Bait of choice would be live shrimp, smaller greenbacks, or cut bait. Hook size is important this time of year as water is very clear. I typically use a 1/0 or #1 Daiichi wide gap circle hook matched with 25 Ohero fluorocarbon leader.
Cobia are also roaming the flats around the warm water outflow. SOme of the old school guides use the ol Black Power eel and sight cast them. Another great bait would have to be a frisky pinfish suspended under a Cajun Thunder float. Cobia are not spooked very easily so Like to drop it right on their head….
Captain Jason Prieto is a native resident of Tampa and has fished Tampa Bay and its surrounding waters for the past 30 years. He is owner and operator of Steady Action Fishing Charters which is based out of lower Tampa Bay and has been operating since 2004. To book a charter, you can reach him at 813-727-9890 or www.