Switch to shrimp as bait as water temps drop 

With the frequency and intensity of cold fronts sweeping over Anna Maria Island, inshore fishers are relying on live shrimp as bait to find success on the water. 

Species such as sheepshead, black drum, redfish and pompano are becoming more apparent in the back country and are readily taking live shrimp offerings as the water temperature is cooling down. This being said, you may want to go out and investigate your options on where to buy shrimp as bait. 

Visiting the local bait shops and marinas where shrimp are sold is wise, as you want to find who will have the most consistent availability for this bait. There’s nothing worse than planning a day of fishing only to find out that you can’t find any bait. And, as the winter progresses and shrimp become the primary bait to use, the demand will go up which means you may need to get your shrimp source early to ensure you get your bait for the day. 

If you do strike out on getting live shrimp, you can always opt to use artificials. Casting soft plastics around docks and canals can be productive. Just remember to slow down your retrieve. As water temps drop, most fish in our region tend to slow down a little as they are trying to conserve their energy. 

Berkeley Gulp shrimp and a jig head is a great artificial option. Snook, redfish and flounder — when in the right mood — will react to these baits in a positive manner. Other species such as trout, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish and jack crevalle readily take a Gulp shrimp if the opportunity presents itself.

Lastly, picking your days to fish will help as we settle into winter. Picking days in between the fronts when temperatures are slightly warmer will greatly improve your chances of a hookup. Fishing late morning and afternoon tides is also smart. This gives the sun a chance to warm the waters enough for the fish to feel comfortable which in turn could trigger them to start feeding.

On my Just Reel fishing charters I’m starting to carry some shrimp as well as live shiners for bait. On the warmer days, between the cold fronts, shiners are working well for snook and spotted seatrout. Ladyfish, mackerel, snapper and flounder are being caught while using shiners as bait. 

On the cooler days, I’m switching to live shrimp as bait. This is resulting in some redfish being caught as well as some black drum and a few sheepshead. 

Tipping jigs with small pieces of live shrimp is working —especially for pompano. Drifting and jigging over deep grass flats or along the beaches and passes is proving to be good for the pompano.

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