We have had fairly stable temperatures for the last couple of weeks but are dealing with a cold front which is fairly typical for this time of year. Prior to the fronts the fishing can be very good. But during and after, especially with temperatures dropping quickly, the fish can shut down until they acclimate to the cooler waters. Combined with highwinds, water temperatures can drop 7 or 8 degrees in a day or two. This can make finding live bait difficult. I will usually take a live shrimp purchased at the bait store, and artificials on trips just after the cold fronts. Trout are very likely to continue responding to shrimp especially when other fish are less likely to bite. Snook will often stay put during the front but not cooperate as much. Redfish are also likely to eat and can be found around docks and oyster bars. There had been a few redfish schools in North Pinellas that were roaming the flats eating pinfish. Often, Highwinds and muddy waters can push fish off of the flats into the deeper channels. It may take a day or two for them to resume their previous activity. But there are lots of fish to target in the protected back country areas when exposed flats are beaten up by the winds. Residential canals can hold sheepshead, redfish and snook and even trout. Patience is key, and spring is just around the corner. 


A stable streak of weather has definitely sparked the bite in north Pinellas. The water over the last week had dipped to 52 degrees. It has only taken a couple of warm days for the temps to approach 58 degrees, stimulating trout and redfish to begin foraging on the warmer part of the day. Jigs in a shrimp pattern have definitely outfished live shrimp when the bite is slower. Likely because jig fishing tends to cover more water, crossing the path of fish while retrieved. However, on the outgoing tides, live shrimp have been getting inhaled quickly while freelined with the tide. As the water level drops, follow the fish towards the edge of the flat as they continue to seek cover and ambush baits. When using artificials I prefer shrimp colors, however over the darker grasses, I’ll use darker green jerkworms. Live shrimp will need to be whole as half eaten shrimp usually continue to get peppered by pinfish and other small species. Redfish are holding by the dozens around residential docks, typical for winter months. Unlike trout, redfish will eat any size shrimp, in small pieces or whole. They are a bottom scavenger, mostly rooting around on the bottom while seeking crustaceans.  Most are undersize fish, but will provide lots of action on medium to higher tides. Once the tides drop out, fish the sandy potholes out in front of the dockline. You will continue to hook reds and trout in those low tide holes as they are slightly deeper than the surrounding grass.   


Clearwater Fishing has been good between the fronts. Lots of trout as expected this time of year. Live shrimp has been my main bait of choice but certainly a variety of artificials have worked well also. Any jerkworms or smaller patterns that mimic the color and shape of shrimp have been best. Slowly retrieving along the bottom, with an occasional hop or two will usually get a strike if a trout is nearby. Sometime I’ll use the artificial to find a group of fish and then concentrate live shrimp in that area. They are ranging from 16 to 24 inches.
After catching the trout, we’ll move to redfishing. Docks have been holding high numbers of small reds. Cut pieces of shrimps can get bitten quickly if the fish are there. If no bites come within the first 10 minutes or so, it’s on to the next dock. Some potholes on the flats have held some bigger fish. Focusing on the mullet schools will usually result in a redfish or two. Snook are being caught every once in a while, if the conditions are just right and usually in the backcountry canals. All in all, it has been pretty good although cold fronts and winds will be coming every 5 – 7 days over the next month or so. Getting out in between and catching some fish is always the name of the game in January.