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Subtle changes are occurring as fall transitions into winter on the waters of Tampa Bay. Capt. Steven’s region which encompasses Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa Florida requires changes in technique and location as the days get shorter and the water cools. Spotted sea trout are prime targets in the winter as our Jacks and Sheep head. Another winter time favorite is the many sharks that invade local flats especially areas near power plants. These plants outflow warm water which attracts many predators. The Snook and Redfish bite will vary wildly based on cold fronts and water temperature.

To start the hours of sunlight diminish resulting in less growth on the sea grass beds. Less sediment means clearer water thus allowing both the angler and fish to see much better. First thing I do is downsize my fluorocarbon leaders. For snook and redfish I use 20-25 pound and for trout I use 10 pound leader material. Sharks invade local flats especially near power plants that pump out warm water so be sure to have rods rigged with 30 pound or higher leaders and these little speedster are not leader shy.

As the water temperatures drop so does the metabolism of many fish, snook are very susceptible... Snook for example will attack live baits aggressively now with the water temperature around 71 degrees. As water temps move into upper 60’s snook will slow down and prefer smaller baits and be less aggressive. Low 60’s removes the appetite from snook almost completely. It’s during these times I move to live shrimp for bait as most snook won’t chase lively white baits.

Slow everything down during the winter. Crawl soft plastic jigs along the bottom at a snail’s pace. Slow metabolisms mean fish won’t chase fast moving baits. A slow presentation is key. When you think you are retrieving slow enough slow down another notch. Last December and January were awesome months and I look forward to duplicating the same results.

Winter also ushers in tides much lower than the balance of the year. Many flats will not be passable or dry altogether. To ensure success it’s critical to learn where the fish have transitioned to. Canals, channels, creeks and rivers are natural roadways for snook, redfish and trout. Deeper water with dark muddy bottoms or rocks holds heat and may be just a degree or two warmer often holding fish.

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Capt. Steven

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