Approaching cold fronts are a reality anglers deal with his time of year. Usually before a front hits, the fishing can be fantastic. This is mostly because warm southern winds are pulled north a day or two before the front is here, making conditions ideal. Fish can detect a change in pressure and eat veraciously similar to behavior around a new or full moon. This week the fishing has been better than normal for the first week of January, as a cold weather front is arpproaching. Trout are schooling up and still inhaling sardines that are prominent in north Pinellas. Spoil islands from Clearwater to Palm Harbor are holding high numbers of trout. Pinfish and shrimp are getting worked over as well, yet greenbacks are the main focus. Chumming with cut baits along the edge of the flats and into sandy potholes has been very effective for Redfish. Especially around the extreme low tides we’ve had. As the cold weather pushes through the ease of finding the scaled sardines will diminish and live shrimp and artificial baits become the norm. Other species targeted in the cold months are sheepshead, jack crevalle and ladyfish. Sheepshead respond well to cut pieces of shrimp cast near rocky edges of oyster bars in the backcountry and around docks. Although redfish and trout are also willing to eat, many popular species such as snook are less likely to bite.
Warm and stable temperatures have really turned on the fishing in north Pinellas. Bait has also been plentiful allowing the baitwell to be filled most days. Most of my fishing has been inshore as reports offshore have weakened a bit. Redfish are inhabiting the usual spots along the mangroves at higher tides. However, the lower tides have concentrated the reds and snook into sandy holes foraging on crustaceans and other baits swimming nearby. Live sardines, small pinfish and especially live shrimp have been getting pounded. Slowly work from pothole to pothole. It doesn’t take long to determine if there are fish present. Trout have been extremely cooperative lately. Chasing and inhaling large baits as well as soft plastics on a 1/8 – 1/4 ounce jighead. Not only on the flats and in potholes with reds and snook, but they are moving into St. Joseph Sound as they do each year at this time. The islands along the intercoastal tend to get crowded with boats and kayaks alike. Please give anglers already fishing a wide birth if moving into an area, perhaps allowing the wind to push you in the final few yards. Trolling motors are invaluable to maneuver around quietly without disturbing the fish and someone else’s bite.
Although the weather has been a bit mild, things are going to change on the water over the next couple of days. Sardines have been easy to net with warm temperatures, however, the higher winds with this weekends cold front will surely drive them away. Live shrimp from the local bait store or artificial lures will be the best bet for catching fish until the temps level out again. Lately, kingfishing in north Pinellas has been fantastic, as well as the spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper bite, however the next couple of days I will be focusing on backcountry bays, protected from the winds and cold. The darker bottoms often heat quicker than the open flats, encouraging the fish to eat. Fishing later in the day is also productive, giving the sun some time to heat the water. Oyster bars will be holding sheepshead, snook and especially redfish. Slowly worked artificial shrimp bounced along the edges will get attacked by most species looking for a meal. If you locate live bait to net or have live shrimp, try cutting a small piece, then casting around and the mangroves. Sluggish fish will smell for the offering and eat at their leisure. As the day heats up, the fish tend to respond better. Cold fronts typical this time of the season tend to push more trout into St. Joseph Sound. Expect the trout bite to improve as well as numbers of trout to increase over the next few days.