Cooler temps prolongs wintertime sheepshead bite

Despite numerous windy days for yet another week, fishing around Anna Maria Island is yielding some good fishing. With the recent cold fronts, water temperatures have slightly dropped into the mid 60s, which in turn has prolonged the sheepshead bite. Fishing around any structure in Tampa Bay has potential to produce hookups of some of these popular winter time fish. 

But the clock is ticking. 

I am noticing a lot of the sheepies I’m catching have spawned out, which means soon the large targetable schools of fish will begin to disperse, making them slightly harder to catch. Offerings of live shrimp are working well as bait, although tantalizing the sheepies with some fiddler crabs or tube worms is always a good bet. This is especially helpful when the fish are being finicky.

Fishers targeting catch-and-release spotted seatrout are faring well due to the cooler water temps. Drifting over deep grass and casting soft plastics on a jig head is yielding many trout hookups with catches ranging 10-22 inches. While targeting the trout with jigs, I’m also seeing ladyfish and a few pompano willing to take to have a taste.

During warmer days in between the fronts, catch-and-release snook fishing is starting to shape up. Water temps in the 70-degree range are allowing the snook to pursue live shiners free-lined over shallow grass flats. Higher tides are best. Some catch-and-release redfish and over-slot catch-and-release trout are in the mix depending on what flats you’re fishing. 

Mangrove snapper seem to be at home in these cooler water temps, and I anticipate the bite improving as April nears. Wrecks in other areas with structure in Tampa Bay are holding decent amounts of snapper 10-15 inches. Live shrimp or shiners as bait are working well. The same areas also are holding flounder. Don’t forget that as of March 1, the size limit for flounder has increased to 14 inches total length. The bag limit has also changed to five fish per person per day and there is a closed season from October 15 through November 30.

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