Reds should be a good option this month. You’ll find them concentrated in potholes when the tide is low. Fly anglers should score with lightly weighted flies fished on a 10’-12’ leader with a floating fly line. Reds feed on crustaceans this time of the year, so crab and shrimp fly patterns should work well. They may tail on shallow grass flats of Gasparilla Sound, and lower Tampa Bay when the tide is low. You’ll need flies with weed guards when targeting tailing reds since they are usually in the thick turtle grass.
You may also find reds around docks, along with snook, sheepshead, flounder and more. Little Sarasota Bay has numerous oyster bars and docks that often hold reds, snook, and sheepshead in January. Use floating fly lines and lightly weighted flies to fish around oyster bars and sink tip fly lines to fish docks. You’re likely to find big trout in many of the same areas that you find reds. The same flies and techniques that are used for reds will also work for big trout.
You may also find trout on deep grass flats in January along with blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano, flounder and more depending on conditions. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift with Ultra Hair Clouser or my Grassett Deep Flats Bunny flies fished on an intermediate sink tip fly line. Since trout can sometimes hold very tight to a particular spot or area, try to cover as much water as possible to find them. Once you’ve located fish you can shorten your drift or anchor on them. My favorite deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay all have a good mix of grass and sand with a strong tidal flow.
Even though there may not be much happening in the coastal gulf this month in the way of sight fishing it may be worth a look when it is warm. Migratory species such as king and Spanish mackerel, cobia, and tripletail probably have moved further south, however, they could reappear during warm-ups. Also, look for false albacore (little tunny) when it’s warm since they may move from offshore to inshore depending on where baitfish are located.
A Final Word
January can be one of the toughest months of the year to fish. However, if you are able to choose when to fish based on tides and weather, it can be good. The action is usually good as weather fronts approach. Following fronts, fishing may be tough for a couple of days so afternoons may fish better then. I’ll let the stage of the tide determine where to look for fish. When the tide is low, look for reds tailing on shallow grass or reds, trout and more in potholes or around docks. Look for reds or big trout cruising on shallow grass flats on sunny afternoons when the tide is high. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural and residential runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!