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January 03, 2010

Counting Sheep Tampa Bay

Winter and colder water on Tampa Bay mean its trout and sheep head season.

Greeting anglers.
Burrrrr is the best way to start today's report. While I think its cold my clients from up North think this is nice! There was no advantage to starting early today so Captain Steven didn't drop the Pathfinder into the water until 9 am. Today I picked up shrimp as we would be tarheting redfish, trout, sheep head and grouper. The water temperature at 55 was not conducive for catching snook.
First stop resulted in one small 12" trout. Other than pinfish pecking at our shrimp it was dead slow and oh so cold. I moved to a grass flat with a drop off from 4' to 8' thinking with a low low tide the trout would be just on the edges. No dice, more pinfish and that was it.
With air temperature so cold I was trying to keep from making long runs but I decided to make a 15 minute trip to my sheep head hole in Tierra Verde. We quickly got in the action but lost the first several fish so at that point I switched to a piece of shrimp vs. a whole shrimp. That immediately paid off with sheep head after sheep head being landed. The average sheep head was 3-4 pounds with many over 7 pounds.
The bite is hard to detect, it's more like a tap not a big pull on the rod. Watching your line is imperative when you see it move or twitch reel down and slowly raise your rod trip. The convict fish is a notorious bait stealer. Once hooked they are strong fighters and use their wide body to dig deep back to the bottom. Sheep head have big human like teeth, they crush crabs and muscles easily. The teeth are big put their mouths are small so I prefer a size 1 hook versus the more typical 1/0 hooks I use with white baits. I use the smallest split shot that will get the bait to the bottom and not tip off the sheep head.
Tampa Bay waters are very clear in the winter so if you find the bite sluggish you may want to downsize your fluorocarbon leader. Remember to dress in warm layers as it gets surprising colder when moving along at 30 mph. It's easy to take things off but being cold can ruin your day.
Captain Steven