February 2012 Fishing Report
February was an unusually warm month here in Florida and specifically Clearwater and the Tampa Bay fishing areas. With water temperatures at the top of the month in the low 60’s and by the end of the month were in the low 70’s, had our fish friends spread all over the place. Normal water temps for this time of year is around 60 degrees.
Most of our winter fish did not settle into their winter patterns. Some of the species, like redfish, trout and sheepshead did start showing up on the flats in their normal winter haunts during January. But as Feb. rolled in, they scattered like someone yelled, “winter false alarm”. We caught quite a few redfish, trout, pompano and sheepshead during the month but they never stayed to long in any one location.
The following is a collection of fish catch’en activities during February.
Tim, Jeff and TJ started the month catching lots of trout, with some sheepshead mixed in. Jeff is showing off the biggest trout of the day, it measured in at 22 inches. We used live shrimp under a float to catch most of these fish.
John and Kevin came along on a sunny February day, targeting mainly redfish and trout. After fishing some baits in normal winter redfish spots we realized that the fish had not pushed into these areas yet. So we headed out to find some gator trout. They caught about 25 trout and Kevin landed the photo of the day, a 23 inch beauty.
This warm weather brought out Todd, Austin and Ray. We fished around different spots in Clearwater Bay and came up with redfish and lots of trout. Two of their eight redfish were in the slot range and over 21 inches. The others were all around the16 and 17 inch size and caught on live shrimp. The two dozen trout were caught at several different locations throughout the bay. Austin is holding his 23 inch red as the big fish winner.
Charley picked a beautiful February day to come out fishing. The water temperature was up to almost 70 degrees and the tide was coming in. He started the day catching around two dozen trout inside Clearwater Bay. We went looking for redfish but could not find any hungry enough. While staked out in one location, Charley dig find three nice gator trout. He landed three nice fish that measured in at 20, 21 and 23 inches along with several large sheepshead. All of these fish were caught on shrimp in two feet of water.
Dave, Nolen and Ron picked another nice warm February day to go fishing. They found lots of trout all around 13 to 15 inches. Ron showed us how he caught several redfish in the 16 inch size. Then he nailed a nice 21 inch red to further rub it in. After that bite shout down, we moved into the shallows and Dave found a nice 20 inch trout and Nolen topped the day off with his huge 24 inch gator trout. It was sweet revenge.
On another day in February, John, Diane, Jay and Kathy came aboard for some winter action. Together they caught over 30 trout, 8 redfish and a lady fish or two. The two biggest redfish were caught by John and Diane and measured in at 22 and 23 inches. Kathy and Jay took honors with two gator trout at 21 and 22 inches. Most of the fish were caught on shrimp. The fish would not leave their baits alone.
Remi, in from Canada, came out for his first inshore fishing experience and did quite well. Started out catching a few dozen trout, all 13 to14 inches and wondered where the gator trout had gone. It didn’t take long till he found his 20 inch trout. Then he caught 4 redfish and the biggest was 23 inches. He ended up catching a 19 inch pompano which gave him a great fight. That was a nice three fish inshore slam. All of these fish were caught on shrimp around the Clearwater area.
Jake, who spent time in Afghanistan and is now a recruiter, and his friend, Jeff, were on board as we headed north to St Joseph Sound on the last day of February. We started out looking for redfish but it ended up being very slow. Jeff landed the only red that measured in at 22 inches. Both anglers landed a bunch of smaller trout earlier in the day and were holding out for the afternoon bite. We move into the skinny water looking for the big gator trout. Both Jake and Jeff caught six trout over 21 inches and Jake had the biggest, it went 23. Thank you Jake for your service and you guys did a great job on those fish.
February has been one of the warmest months that I can remember. The redfish and large schools of big gator trout did not fully set up on their winter locations here in the Clearwater fishing area. The reds have been scattered around the mangroves and oyster beds and are moving constantly. There are plenty of trout throughout the bays but the large fish are hit and miss. I don’t think the fish even realized we had a winter.
Bring on spring, well heck, it’s already here.
Capt. Gary Burch