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Your Guide for Fishing Over the Holidays

What do fishing guides do on their days off? I can’t speak for everyone but most of the time, I go fishing, for my own enjoyment, and sometimes take a friend along. But last weekend for Thanksgiving, I kicked back, relaxed, watched fishing shows and some football on TV.
Next question – What do fish do on their days off?  The answer?  Well, fish never get a day off. Fish don’t get a holiday and they don’t get to take off from working for a living. They continually must work for food.  So for those of you who want to go fishing over the holidays – you are in luck.  The fish are still working!
Recently, the action has been up and down due to the weather, but it’s been mostly steady. Trout fishing seems to be off from the norm, but the majority of the fish we are catching are in about 6-to 8-feet of water. We’re seeing better numbers of sheepshead beginning to show up on the flats, with some black drum around docks. One report this week had mangrove snapper piled up at the Skyway Bridge. There are also still a few pompano being caught near the Bulkhead at the mouth of the Manatee River, but with winter weather just ahead, their days here are numbered.
But if you’re looking for something that’s not too finicky to feed, redfish, flounder, and trout have been around a willing to tighten our lines. Fishing in lower Tampa Bay this week, anglers aboard my Action Craft flats skiff, the Flat Back II caught snook, trout, redfish, loads of ladyfish, and good numbers of flounder. Big reds rewarded us early in the week with close to a dozen fish caught in the mid-thirty inch range and several right at the top of the slot. No undersized reds were boated. We used a combination of lures including the DOA Shrimp, CAL Shad in both 3 and the new 4-inch sizes, the Eppinger Rex Spoon, and the MirrOlure Marsh Minnow and Lil’ John soft plastic baits with good success. We had flounder to 22-inches.
Two weeks ago, water temperature rebounded in the big way by reaching just over 74 degrees down in Terra Ceia Bay. That’s a 25-degree increase over the previous week’s water temperature in some parts of the bay. Last weekend, the temperature went back down but now we are on the beginning of another upward trend. This Yo-Yo trend, as I call it, is part of the acclimation period for fish to get used to the incoming cold weather that winter will present. It gives fish a chance to prepare themselves for the cold and triggers a feeding response in them to make them put on body fat that will help ward off extreme cold weather that may be on the horizon.
Freshwater anglers are finding good catches of crappie early this year, so that’s an option. The best bet inshore will be to target both redfish and flounder – they are the most plentiful and tops on the table. After a stretch of turkey leftovers, some fish will be a welcome change on the table.