First off, I recommend that you regularly check the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website for changes to fishing regulations. FWC has gone back to closed season on seatrout for the month of February so, if you happen to catch them this month, they must be released healthy and alive.
Trout are seeking refuge in creeks and bayous where they can hunker down and wait for bay water temperatures to rise. Since they are “fragile” fish, be sure to practice safe handling so that they’re released in the best possible condition. Always wet your hands before touching them and, if possible, use a flip stick style of hook remover to keep from having to touch them at all. If you are targeting the big trophy-sized fish (February is a decent month to do that), keep the fish in the water until you are ready to get a quick photo and then release it as soon as possible.
If you like to stalk tailing redfish in shallow water, then you are in luck! Low negative tides present plenty of opportunities to quietly creep around the flats and throw to laid up, cruising and tailing redfish. Tailing redfish are actively looking for food and, if you present your bait properly, you should have a good shot at getting them to eat. I like compact soft plastics that can be thrown accurately and landed softly without spooking wary fish. Downsizing your gear will add to your chances of success. A small jig head, light leader and appropriately matched rod/reel will help stack the odds in your favor. You can also find redfish in the pass along the jetties, around bridges, along the beaches and near deepwater structures in the bay.
We’re still catching decent numbers of flounder in the bays on top of medium depth, sandy potholes – especially in areas close to the pass. Look for broken bottom with slightly deeper sand surrounded by shallow grass. A nice broken outside edge of the flat with some decent depth change is another good place to check. I usually throw jigs but, for stubborn fish, there’s nothing like a live shrimp on a small hook with split shot dragged slowly across the sand to draw a strike.
Sheepshead catches have become common around bay structure. They are beginning to make their way to the pass where they will stage along the jetties in preparation for the spring spawn. Sheepshead are a tough fish and fun to fight, but they’re sometimes tricky to get hooked up due to the way they chew their food. It’s best to use a live or dead shrimp on a small, light wire circle hook. If you let the fish chew on it awhile and start swimming off before you come tight on it, then you’ll dramatically improve your hook up ratio.
As always, if you have questions about what’s biting, how to catch them or want to book a trip, give me a call or shoot me an email. Good luck!