Fishing Report from For Shore Fishing.
By Michael Wilson / Ledger correspondent
Sheepshead— The seasonal sheepshead bite appears to be at its peak in the Tampa Bay region and locations elsewhere. Anglers report the sheepshead are “thick” just about everywhere.
Strike Zone, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Elsewhere
1: At Big Pier 60 in Clearwater, the pier is closed for renovations and will open again Friday, February 2 at 6:00 a.m., reports Big Pier 60 Bait & Tackle (727-462- 6466).
2: At Madeira Beach, the hogfish bite is still the best bet from a depth of 40-60 feet offshore. “Lane snapper are still biting pretty good too and we’ve seen some monsters sprinkled into the box. The red grouper bite near shore has been tough. We’re catching them, but most are under the 20 inch minimum, legal size. This time of year, the keeper red grouper we do catch, are well offshore,” reports Capt. Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina (727-393-1947).
3: At John’s Pass, sheepshead continue to bite at the John’s Pass Bridge, jetty, and area docks. The outgoing tide has seen the best bite. “Gator” size trout are starting to show up on the flats and along the mangroves of Boca Ciega Bay. Silver trout are still being caught from the beaches. Just north of the jetty has been especially good, reports Capt. Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina (727-393-1947).
4: At Fort DeSoto Park, “Sheepshead are on fire right now, they’re everywhere. Small shrimp, fiddler crabs, and barnacles don’t last long fished around any area with structure,” reports Capt. Claude Hinson, of the Bait Bucket (727-864-2108). Small, “rat” redfish are being caught off East Beach and in the Mud Hole. There’s some snook being caught in the canals that have real, dark muddy bottom. Topwater and suspending lures are getting the bite, reports Hinson.
5: Around the Sunshine Skyway and lower Tampa Bay, all the rock piles in the bay and around the bridges are holding sheepshead, black drum, and some flounder on shrimp fished on the bottom. Good size trout are on the flats warming up in the potholes. Redfish and black drum are all also over the flats. Fish are hanging in shallow potholes adjacent to deeper water all along the east shoreline from Miguel Bay to the Manatee River, reports Capt. Shawn Crawford of Florida Sport Fishing Outfitters of Bradenton (941-705- 3160).
6: At Anna Maria, sheepshead are all over any structure in the area. Live shrimp or pieces of shrimp will get the bite. Deeper water potholes on the flats are also holding sheepshead. There’s also some redfish and black drum mixed in with them in these holes, reports Capt. Shawn Crawford of Florida Sport Fishing Outfitters of Bradenton (941-705- 3160).
7: At St. Petersburg, “Sheepshead are about the only thing happening right now. They’re all over the bridges, piers, rock piles, jetties, and the residential canal docks. Some black drum are mixed in with them. Pieces of shrimp and fiddler crabs will get the bite,” reports Larry Mastry of Mastry’s Tackle (727-896-8889). Some of the area canal docks are also holding a few redfish and trout, reports Mastry.
8: In the north end of Tampa Bay, “The sheepshead are thick around oyster bars and rock piles in the north end of the bay above the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Most of the fish are near the mouths of the creeks or up inside,” reports Capt. Jake Whitfield Florida Outdoor Adventures (813-997-5980). Small redfish and back drum are also mixed in with the sheepshead. Trout are biting shrimp fished under a popping cork, reports Whitfield.
– At Homosassa, most of the action is still in the rivers. Snook are in the spring fed waters, but for decent size fish, move west and try different points that are near the channel edges with shrimp on a 1/8th oz. jig head. Black drum, redfish, sheepshead, and the occasional trout will be in these spots as well. “I had a great sheepshead bite in the river this past week during the last hour of the outgoing tide,” reports Capt. William Toney of Homosassa Inshore Fishing Charters (352-621-9284).
– At Fort Pierce, the bottom bite was good offshore before the winds picked up. Lots of mutton and lane snapper with a few mangrove in the mix. At the inlet, the jetty, and the bridges, there’s lots of sheepshead, black drum, jack crevalle, bluefish, and large croakers. Some trout are being caught on the flats in spots protected from the wind, reports Clint Walker at the Fishing Center of St. Lucie (772-465-7637).
– At the Indian River, any area with structure is holding sheepshead, mangrove snapper, and black drum. Live or dead shrimp is the best bait. Trout are biting on the flats in warmer, shallow water three to five feet deep. Pompano have been in deeper water on the flats, channels, and cuts in the river. Redfish are hanging around the docks and mangroves. A D.O.A. shrimp is a good bait for both the redfish and trout, reports Capt. Charlie Conner of Fish Tales Charters (772-284-3852).
“May your lines be tight and your shake off’s and break off’s memorable.”