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Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Report

Christmas Week Report

The Baxter House Staff would like to wish all of our friends in the Fly Fishing community a Merry Christmas and Best Wishes in the New Year!

The Report

I was on a several week run of being on the water ever day. Over the last few days everyone was blow off the water as heavy winds and heavy rain hit our area. I was on the water with guests when the heavy rain started Wednesday afternoon. We were having great action until it became too miserable to stay out. Over the last 2 days just about everywhere got 4"+ of rainfall. In the South Bay area we also had heavy steady winds with some gusts over 70 mph.

This type of sustained blow is sure to put a bump in the bay and flats fishing for a few days. I drove along the bay yesterday and the flats were taking a beating. You could have surfed in some areas.

The weather effects should be less severe in the back country, rivers and canals but in these areas the water is very high and getting a lot of fresh water runoff. This should continue for a few days.

With that all said the weather forecast look pretty good for the next week. It looks like bright sun and warmer temps are on the way. By Wednesday it should be pretty warm, high 70's to low 80's.

Despite the crappy weather we have some good tides now and for the next few days. Negative low tides will be during the morning hours and there will be good water movement on both sides of the low.

Prior to the weather my guests were really killing it. I was able to treat my guided trips like a shopping list. We hit the flats for Trout and Reds, moved to the cuts for some Jacks then into the mangroves and canals for Snook. I had a recent trip where my guests fished light tackle with gulp baits and paddle tails. The action was non stop with a mix of Trout and Redfish. On this particular day we had several dozen Reds all of which were 14" to 18". Several times we had double hookups.

With the windy weather lately I have been spending a good amount of time in the Back country and in the canals. The snook bite has been very good once you get the technique down. As I have mentioned before, the key to taking snook when the water is cooling down is sharp strips of the fly and slowing down the time it takes to retrieve the line. It almost seems illogical to just leave a fly alone in the water and just nudge it around, but it's what they want. Once you get the technique down your rod will stay bent all day long.

Here are a few nice snook from residential canals

Michele and I get out about every day that I am not working and the back country is where we usually chase snook. We have had some incredible action recently by hitting the mangrove cuts during the periods of water movement. The water movement is key and there is a sweet spot on every tide change so you have to be patient and trust your choice of spots.

An example is a recent trip to one of our favorites. We arrived and started fishing a cut that runs about 200 yds. along a stretch of mangroves. The water was moving hard like a river. We each took a different direction and fished about an hour without a strike. We got back to the skiff and planned to move when a few baitfish started popping in the cut. Michele walked back out and had 3 strikes in a row. We re-fished the entire stretch and had non stop action which included the fish in the photos below.

Even when the fish are feeding actively, you still need to move the fly slowly. During winter this is the key to steady takes especially from the larger fish.

All of these snook were taken with EP Style Baitfish. Included is a photo of the 2 hottest patterns lately. Olive and Yellow, Light Olive and White

The trout bite has been on fire since the arrival of cooler weather. Targeting the edges of the flats, channels and the deeper small bays during the low tide is the easiest way to have non stop action. Large amounts of Trout will hold up in these areas and any Clouser Minnow or Shrimp pattern will produce. Chartreuse and White is the standard and I see no reason to deviate if a bent rod is your goal. Once you find the Trout in these type locations the size will most always run consistent across all of the fish you take, normally these are under slot, juvenile fish.

If you are looking for the bigger fish this is solitary hunting. Right now I have been finding the bigger Trout during the late afternoon in 2' of water or less. I have also been finding some nice ones hanging around crab traps in the back bays. At this time I am targeting large Trout with Bait-fish flies in the 5" size range.

Here is a nice one from last week.

Recently I have been running up to Big Bend every few days. Most of the time it is just for a short period at the start or end of a trip. The colder weather has both Manatees and fish moving in. In the times that I have been there you had to work pretty hard for some action. This is the product of fly tackle in deep water and the fact that there are not large numbers of fish there yet.

My guests have taken some big Jack Crevales and Spanish Macks but I have been finding bigger schools of both in the bay. Jacks have also been a steady catch in the back country and canals as well. I have seen a few Pompano, Snook and Reds. No shots at Cobia yet. Sharks are probably the most abundant creatures and at times they are taking the Jacks off your line. This is normally my cue to move on.

Here is a small shark from my trip on Wednesday

With the extended weather forecast I am expecting the new year to start off with some good fishing. January is going to see a lot of low water which is great for those of us who like to chase game fish in the skinny water. I am picking up trips daily but still have plenty of openings if you want to get out for a trip.

It looks like the water will be skinny most of the month. High tides will be averaging just over 1 ft. for more than half the month. The periods of peak water movement will be Jan 3-8 and 18-23..

Give us a call today to plan your next Fly Fishing or light tackle adventure. 607-290-4022

I am idle today but plan to be back on the water tomorrow. I will most likely update social media only until after Christmas. My Facebook page -

Instagram - baxter house outfitters

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