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January Fishing Report

Cold fronts have been the theme since we had the coldest Christmas in 20 years. It's pretty typical to have a cold front once a week or so into March. It'll warm up for 3-5 days followed by a front and back to the warming phase. Fish can become lazy during the cooling periods and will perk up on the second or third day of the warming trend. They can be fed, however, on any fishable day with a little effort, some good planning, and an angler willing to take advantage of a good shot.

This year it was extremely warm well into December and then it got cold, fast. This posed an issue for most of South Florida in that fish didn't really move into their fall to winter staging areas prior to the coldest Christmas we've seen in 20 years. It killed a few fish but luckily was not as bad as it could have been.

Redfish are beginning to concentrate into bigger schools in the Upper Tampa Bay. I've seen a few big schools of fish and far less groups of 1-10 fish like we saw most of last month. Look for fish to ride the tide out of deeper pockets and onto shallow flats. Especially if you have a good incoming tide paired with a warm afternoon sun. Look for flats where the sun shines on them most or all of the day. They will warm faster than shaded areas providing more opportunities to run into good fishing. Even with good visibility, it is vital to move as slowly as possible across a flat so as not to spook fish before you get an opportunity to see them.

The Sports coast has had plenty of fish but not in big schools as of yet. Most of the fish I have been targeting are hanging on shorelines and potholes in flats in small pods of 1-5 fish. This can be a great situation especially when targeting fish on a fly rod. Sometimes it is much easier to get a fly in front of a small pod of cruising fish than a large school of fish. Too many lateral lines and eyeballs in a small, shallow area can be a real problem. You can often post up in an area you know these fish are traveling through and earn great shots on fish moving from a shallow flat to a shoreline or vice versa. Most of these fish don't travel far on a single tide cycle and will often stay in the same area for a few days or even weeks. If you know where they are in a certain part of a tide cycle you can usually guess where they will be on a different tide and ambush them in between those areas. Spend some time or even a whole tide cycle in a single area and you'll see what I mean. The sports coast has also been giving me a lot of bites fishing near or directly in mullet schools. There has been a lot of good sized fish feeding behind mullet moving in and out of the many feeder creeks. Look for mullet traveling around oyster bars, grass lines, and feeder creeks and there will often be redfish in them. A gold spoon or a small jig has been the ticket to targeting these fish. They can often be targeted on a fly rod as well but it can be very tough for new anglers to tell the difference between mullet and redfish.

The nature coast is a tough place to fish in the winter. Low water combined with high winds can make accessing some flats extremely tough. Very little shelter outside of the feeder creeks on low water can lead to great fishing however. Some of these flats will be inacessible to most anglers and even most fish for days on end. This leads to unpressured fish that move onto the flat to feed when you can time it right. The nature coast is also home to lots of natural springs that feed out onto these flats from the backcountry. These springs provide shelter and warm water to fish who might need a respite. Locating these springs and knowing when you can access areas near them will give you places to fish on lower water as well as get you and your anglers on some fish.

The fishing has been great in Tampa Bay, Aripeka, and everywhere in between. Book your day on the water and enjoy some of the best sight fishing of the year!

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