New year, cooler weather, different tactics for fishing success

Those lucky enough to fish around Anna Maria Island over the Christmas break can attest that the water temps and warm weather resembled more of a springtime bite than a wintertime bite. 

Many anglers using live shiners as bait were catching respectable numbers of snook, redfish and trout. And, those using live shrimp as bait enjoyed a variety of inshore species such as pompano, permit, sheepshead and black drum. 

Experiencing this kind of action during the last week of December is uncommon, although welcomed by both local and visiting anglers.

But, now with the arrival of January, the cold fronts are finally reaching south to chill down the weather and the water. This will also cool down the fishing or at least alter the methods for which to catch fish in our area. 

Live shiners as bait may go by the wayside for the weeks to come if we see some consistent cold weather settle in. Using live shrimp as bait will be the mainstay for the remainder of our winter season. 

Targeted species may change slightly, too. Species that enjoy shrimp include sheepshead, redfish, black drum and pompano. This will be a welcome change from targeting snook and trout on the flats for most of the year. And, instead of fishing the flats you may find yourself fishing different territory to find a bite. Fishing residential docks and canals can be quite productive during the wintertime months. Deeper areas such as channel edges or structure such as reefs and wrecks can be good places to hunt for fish. 

And, finally you’ll need to do some homework to figure out the wintertime pattern. Changing tactics, changing bait and changing location are all factors in this and need to be observed.

On my Just Reel charters, I am finding an early sheepshead bite the most accommodating for my clients. Casting live shrimp on a 1/2-ounce knocker rig along sandy shorelines where deeper water is close by is working nicely. Most sheepies are weighing 2-pounds although some are reaching 5-pounds. In these areas, I am also finding black drum, redfish and a few pompano in the mix which is adding a nice variety to the bite for my clients.