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Florida West Coast Fishing Report Tampa Bay/Bradenton

Fishing Report - January 28, 2003

With water temps hovering around the mid 50's, this is the time of year that I choose to leave the "gamefish" species alone, leave a little later in the morning when there's some sun heating us up and target sheepshead and mangrove snapper around manmade or natural structure.  It's often challenging because these fish know where their hidey hole is and once hooked, run right into it to try to cut you off.  This past week I accompanied Pat Adams from Bay Colony in Palmetto on her boat, leaving the dock at about 10:30am.  She wanted to learn more about the Terra Ceia Bay waters and didn't know about a pile of the old Skyway Bridge material that holds lots of sheepshead and snapper.  As usual for winter, the shrimp were a bit on the small side but that's the good thing because sheepshead and snapper only need a tid bit to tempt them.  I chose to use a 3/0 gold hook and a #4 split shot.  Should I end up getting snagged, the split shot could break loose or the hook bend just enough for me to come free of the debris without breaking my line to 20# fluorocarbon leader.  We didn't get into any of the 6 pounder sheepshead that lurk there but we got some nice 3 pounders.  The snapper were just above legal and we even caught some juvenile gag grouper.  Ed Goulder of Cleveland and I met around noon-ish and fished the limestone edges of the ICW along Siesta Key and caught sheepshead and snapper also using live shrimp.  Both days were somewhat windy but the sheltered areas still enabled us to get out and go fishing without being too uncomfortable.

Other fishing options around the New Pass Bridge and Radio Tower holes would be bluefish, jacks and of course the good old standby, ladyfish.  All of these fish would willingly take artificials. If at first you don't hook up, either work your jig more slowly and deeper or move around a bit finding the drop offs.

I happened to be driving around on Friday looking for any signs of stressed or even dead snook around the Manatee River, Warners Bayou and Palma Sola Bay but can state that there were none I saw that were dead.  A few fish were holding in the lee of the wind and in sunny spots above darker bottom and not moving.  In Palma Sola near that neighborhood's marina, I bumped into Howard Wells of the Snook Foundation and a couple of his volunteers doing the same thing.  One of the young men with him had just released a 24" snook that took and artificial bait cast into the middle of the basin.  We were pleased to see it wasn't stressed and it was hungry. We'll just have to hope more like it found warm enough water to get them through this long cold spell.

Get out and go fishing, it's good for you,

Capt. Merrily Dunn 

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