Capt. Dawson Day’s fishing forecast: January

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By Dawson Day

Fishing remains hot despite the cool water temps.

We are still seeing lots of migrating cobia and tripletail, with a few king mackerel here and there. In the bay we are still seeing good numbers or snook, jacks, pompano, sheepshead, and black drum. 

With water temps being down, the snook like to hide away in the creeks and canals inside the bay and they can be very lethargic at times. These fish can be caught using a variety of different live and artificial baits.

Capt. Dawson Day

When live-baiting these fish, it helps to have a live well full of bait to be able to chum and get the fish fired up and actively feeding. While fishing for snook you will often come across schools of jack crevale that will give you a run for your money on some light-tackle setups.

The water clarity has been incredible lately, which means these fish can get smart, so I like to scale my gear down to a 1/0 circle hook and 15- to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader to get more bites. 

Another great species to target this time of year is pompano, which make for great table fare. We are finding them on the local grass flats and passes of Sarasota Bay, as well as off of our beautiful Siesta Key beach. Pompano can be caught using live shrimp, sand fleas, and with pompano jigs found at our local tackle shops.

No boat? No problem. You can walk the beach casting pompano jigs with a 15- to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader on a small 2,000- to 4,000-size spinning reel and find them. The key for beach fishing is to cover lots of water until you run into them. While beach fishing for pompano, you will also come across other species of fish like Spanish mackerel, jacks, and lady fish.

Sheepshead will be another great species we will see more of over the next few months. They can be found around docks, in the passes around rock structure, and on our local reefs and ledges. When fishing for sheepshead, I like to use a knocker rig with a 3/4- to 1-ounce egg sinker and a 1/0 J hook, or a jig head with a shrimp or small fiddler crab.

If you see the sheepshead around dock pilings or rocks and can’t get them to eat, try a free line with a small hook and small piece of shrimp and that will usually do the trick.

Sheepshead also make for great table fare, so be sure to have a cooler handy.

We are also seeing steady action drifting the grass flats still with trout, ladyfish, bluefish, and mackerel throwing an assortment of live and artificial baits. Fish water between 3 to 6 feet and around bird activity, casting all around as to cover as much water as possible and you are sure to find something to bite.

Dawson Day
Author: Dawson Day

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