February Fishing Forecast 2016
So far so good with cold fronts this year in the Clearwater fishing region. We had a couple of brief cold snaps in January that sent the water temperatures in Clearwater bay down to 60 degrees. As usual our wonderful Florida sunshine did its thing and a few days later, warmed the water back to seasonal temps around 65. There is one thing that fish don’t like and that is “drastic temperature change”.
Most of our winter fish did not settle into their winter patterns because of such a warm end to 2015. Some of the species, like redfish, trout and sheepshead did start showing up on the flats in their normal winter haunts during January. But as Feb. rolls in, keep on the move because the fish could be anywhere.
Trout is our most hunted species in the winter along the numerous grass flats that dot Clearwater Bay and St. Joseph Sound waters. Stay in about two to four feet of water. The fish will move up on these flats to catch some sunshine and hopefully a meal at the same time. The big gator trout over 22 inches are a bit more difficult to find. They can be mixed in with the smaller schools or off on their own in another part of the bay. Give each grass area a little time and if nothings biting, move on. Not all of the flats will hold fish, so check as many as you can till you locate the trout.
Most of the time on my winter fishing charters, casting with artificials is the best way to locate the fish. Remember to bounce it along the bottom and move it real slow. The winter trout are not very active and don’t want to move far for their food. I will be using a 1/8 or 1/16 oz. jig head with a dark colored plastic tail. Mister Twister has a few root beer colored plastics I use a lot. Bring some live shrimp so you can switch over once the fish are found. Fishing the shrimp on a float rig near the bottom will catch some big trout.
Redfish have been scattered around the shallow waters near the mangroves and are constantly moving. Locating any consistent action has been a daily chore. Cold fronts and extreme low tides keep moving the fish to different parts of the back waters. There are a few areas that small reds can be found with hopes of larger fish moving in this winter.
I would start my search for reds on the east side of the bay, along the docks, mangroves and oyster beds that cover that east shore line. Some of these areas will hold fish better than others so keep moving in your hunt for signs of hungry predators. Look for big schools of mullet as redfish and trout love to hang out in close proximity. Once fish are found, bring out the shrimp or small pin fish and fish the area thoroughly.
As long as these cold fronts are not very strong, look for the fishing to continue at an increasing pace.
We had some beautiful days of fishing in January and I’m looking forward to a fantastic February.
Capt. Gary Burch