West Central Florida Fishing:
From Aripeka to Longboat Key which includes Hudson, New Port Richey, Anclote Key, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Bradenton.
Capt Ray says:
It’s only right to expect cold weather for the Christmas holidays and the holiday season this time of year. The weather prognosticators have been a bit off lately, but the patterns seem to be similar each week. The weather warms up through about Friday. The winds lay down, and by the weekend, it starts to go back downhill into another front. This holiday weekend’s prediction is for similar weather, but don’t let that hold you back and keep you from going fishing, unless you’re headed offshore, then a more prudent approach should be taken.
For you OFFSHORE Fishermen
The weatherman has made it tough on offshore anglers looking to get out before grouper season closes next Saturday, January 1. Federal waters will become off limits for grouper at that time. The inshore waters remain open and plenty of grouper have been caught inside Tampa Bay and the channel running in from Egmont Key, well inside the bay. While this may not qualify as offshore, Tampa Bay can get mighty mean if the winds are blowing, and an offshore boat is the only way to get out and get them. Trolling a number 2 or 3 planer with a big Bubba’s Curly Tail Jig on a heavy jighead is a favorite of top trolling skippers like Vance Tice and Channel 13’s Doug Hemmer.
Captain Dave Zalewski out of Madeira Beach likes a broken-back gold Bomber lure. Trolling is a good way to find fish, and using a downrigger is best, since the approach to the fish is “up and down” with some blowback from the downrigger ball. Hitting the waypoint save button and using the plot feature on your bottom machine could bring you back to the mark where you were hit to anchor up for some bottom time.
Not much else was reported this week, with the weather taking its toll. Water temperature has dropped to the low 50s and frozen bait is the way to go to get lethargic fish to begin eating. Chum should be an absolute necessity, and with the full moon on Tuesday, the current will be running pretty hard, so give fish time to move up your chum slick to feed.
Inshore fishing on Florida's West Coast
At this point, December in the West Central area is on point to rank as one of the top 10 coldest Decembers since records were first taken. NOAA National Weather Service in Ruskin recently said that the average temperature has been running 10 to 12 degrees below normal for December. What should this mean to anglers? Here are a few tips to help you catch more fish in this cold weather.
Well, for starters, make sure your start time on the water is later in the morning or early afternoon when the sun has a chance to begin warming shallow waters. This should help fish get more in a feeding mood. Presentations should be ultra slow.
Reports this week were limited, but the ones received were similar. The bite was slow in most locations, with trout, redfish, flounder, sheepshead, and bluefish headlining the catch. Live shrimp have been in limited supply in some areas due to the cold and windy conditions.
If you’re thinking about using jigs or artificial shrimp, now is the time to use the bait with a red, brown or chartreuse tip on the tail. Working these baits slowly on the bottom will imitate shrimp that have just come out of the mud, where their tails have been discolored from burying in for several days. The DOA night glow/ fire tail shrimp or the night glow/ chartreuse tipped tail produce exceptionally well now.
Water in most areas is gin clear when out of the wind. Make leaders extra long out of stealthy leader material like Seaguar or Ande fluorocarbon material, or blue Ande Backcountry Copolymer. These materials are nearly invisible in the ultra clear waters during winter. Downsize baits, both natural and artificial to match appetites that are stunned by the cold. Make casts as long as possible to avoid spooking fish. When sight-fishing, don’t drop baits on top of fish, but cast beyond and bring the baits by in front of the fish within their strike zone. Remember, strike zones shrink in cold weather and fish rarely chase down bait. Move both live and artificial baits very slowly. Fresh cut baits and “stink baits” like Berkley Gulp excel when fished in the “dead-stick” mode without moving the bait, particularly with some current or water movement.
Work plastic worms slowly around boat docks and structure. Bass have been holding tight to grass beds and deeper structure in the rivers and in the lakes, such as Lake Tarpon. Crappies are beginning to show signs of schooling in Central Florida Lakes. Look for the action to be on the rise this weekend with the full moon this week.
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