February Fishing Forecast for Tampa Bay and Clearwater Fl
So far so good with cold fronts this year in the Clearwater fishing region. We had a couple of brief cold snaps that sent the water temperatures in Clearwater bay down below 60 degrees. As usual our wonderful Florida sunshine did its thing and a few days later, warmed the water back to seasonal temps just below 65. There is one thing that fish don't like and that is "drastic temperature change".
Trout and redfish will be the major targets in Clearwater and Dunedin waters during February along with sheepshead, flounder and black drum. Drift around patchy grass and sand areas in three to five feet of water till trout are found. Stake out the location and fish that spot for additional catches. Also search along shell and rocky bottoms that are adjacent to deeper water grass flats for possible flounder and sheepshead. Don't invest too much time if there is no action. There are too many similar places that are holding good numbers of fish.
Live shrimp fished under a float is always a popular method for trout fishing and will net you some 24+ inch fish this winter. But don't pass up throwing artificials because these large gator trout have no problem slurping down a plastic jig. In the winter time, I use a 1/16 oz. jig head with a 3 inch shad tail in the darker type colors. A root beer, darker shrimp and crab colors will most likely do the job. Just remember, it's very important to slow your action down. The metabolism of winter fish has slowed down and they will not exert a lot of energy to chase down live or artificle baits that are moving too fast.
New spotted seatrout regulations from the FWC are out for the Southwest Region. Starting February 1st, 2012, there are no closed seasons or months. Size and bag limits stay the same. You can harvest 4 fish between 15 and 20 inches per person per day. Only one of the 4 fish can be over 20 inches.
Take some time off and go out on one of these beautiful February days and catch yourself some fish. You'll be glad you did.
Capt. Gary Burch
About The Author: Captain Gary Burch
Company: Flats Guide West Florida
Area Reporting: Dunedin, Clearwater and Tarpon Springs
Bio: Capt. Gary is a full time West Central FL. fishing guide from Dunedin. Charter fishing from St Petersburg, Clearwater and Dunedin to Inshore bays and Backwaters. Targeting Snook, Redfish, Trout and other inshore fish. 45 years experience all around FL. Tournament winner and Florida State record holder.