As water temperatures have dropped into the mid 60s and numerous fronts continue to move through the area, the winter pattern is upon us. The saltwater fishing is not as productive as it was just a month ago. This triggers my winter move out to Lake Manatee for my winter and spring crappie season. The past two weeks, I've fished fresh water exclusively and have had mixed results.
Most days, we're catching good numbers of big crappie (12-14 inches). But as is always the case this time of year, if a front happens to blow through -- and this year we seem to be getting more than average with lots of heavy winds -- it can slow the bite down for a couple of days. The one thing that has really helped the past couple of weeks has been going away from the spinner jigs that I've used exclusively for the past eight years and going to a jig without a spinner on it.
The jig that is really working for me a jig called Ron's Zip Jig. The colors that are working best are flourescent pink, blue and red. I slow troll my jigs along the old river channel dropoffs, and like any fisherman that is having a slow day, I tied on a couple of these jigs.
For whatever reason, the fish started hitting around my spinner jigs and hitting these Ron's Zip Jigs. I'm not sure if the spinners are spooking the fish or what the reason is, but it goes without saying that I'll fish what works, and all 14 of my rods are now fishing these jigs and there are really working. The crappie fishing should be good now through March or April or until the water temperatures get above 75 degrees whichever comes first.
Capt. Mike Senecal
With the passing cold fronts and a drop in the water temperatures to 65 degrees, the winter pattern has arrived. However, a change in tactics can ensure some nice catches of fish for the dinner table. Last week, fishing was steady on my charters with nice redfish and flounder making up the majority of the action.
The key was to find potholes in 2 to 6 feet of depth and put the bait on the bottom with a split shot. With the cold arriving and drop in water temperatures, the shiners are moving off the flats, and the switch to live shrimp will begin. Speckled trout have been active on the grass flats eating shiners and will readily take live shrimp rigged under a popping cork.
Looking forward the move from the shallow flats to the deeper water will be the strategy I will employ. Deep-water docks will start to hold redfish, sheephead, and mangrove snapper. Let's hope the sheephead and redfish will provide for some excellent angling action for the rest of 2012. The speckled trout fishery did not close this year, so targeting speckled trout in the deep grass of Tampa Bay will produce some nice catches of tasty white fillets for the dinner table.
Capt. Mark Howard
SumoTime Fishing Charters