WITHLACOOCHEE/RAINBOW RIVERS/LAKE ROUSSEAU — Captain Bob Jewett out of Angler’s Resort in Dunnellon reports crappie are on fire at the locks and up the Withlacoochee, where they’re under the grass mats and biting on minnows and yellow-yellow jigs. On the Rainbow, folks are catching bluegill and smaller bass.
LAKE ROUSSEAU — Bill Burgess of Lake Rousseau RV and Fishing said crappie are hitting on minnows or jigs tipped with a minnow with a bobber, in 10-12 feet of water. They haven’t moved up but that should happen soon. Bass are shallow and on the breaks, not spawning yet but moving up to feed. They’re scattered, catch them with jerk baits, Zoom Lizards or wacky worms.
WITHLACOOCHEE — Captain Zack Lewis of Reputation Charters (352-302-7928), via Hook, Line and Sinker Bait and Tackle, said, “The sheepshead, hogfish and mangrove snapper have been chewing right before those cold fronts. I know it has been pretty crappy weather, you are definitely having to pick and choose your days to get out and fish especially to get out and find the hogfish, sheepshead and mangrove snapper. The bait of choice for all three is shrimp unless you have a good line on fiddler crabs or go and catch your own fiddler crabs.
“Inshore the trout bite has been pretty good when you can locate them, and up in the creeks the redfish bite has remained great and is always awesome right before a big front. Hope this helps and good luck on your next trip.”
KING’S BAY — Captain Louie Argiro of Florida Fishing Adventures (352-601-1963, www.floridafishingadventures.com), based out of Pete’s Pier in Crystal River, said, “Finally some beautiful Florida wintertime weather! With early mornings in the 50s and afternoons reaching the mid-70s the fish have turned on. All around from the inshore creeks to the offshore rock piles we are seeing some great catches coming up daily.
“As for the backcountry we have some great weather to target redfish as they have been slowly starting to feed more and more with the small increase in water temperatures. Although they are still giving us a run for our money some days, using a live mud minnow has shown to be the best way to target these finicky feeders this time of year.
“We have been fishing well inside the outer islands and sometimes as far back as the narrows near Dixie shores. The speckled trout fishing has held through for us this week as we are still seeing great catches in any larger, deeper pocket in the backcountry as well. Live shrimp on a jig head bounced very slowly along the bottom has shown to give us the best results.
“As for the offshore side of things, fishing in 25-35 feet of water for the mangrove snapper and sheepshead has shown to be increasingly productive over the last week. With the calm winds and warmer temperatures the weather has been conducive to making some long runs to track down the meat fish of the wintertime fishery. The best part about the sheepshead is that we’re not having to go as far out to have great catches of the ‘convict’ fish as they have been called.
“Fishing in 6-8 feet of water along the rock piles that line the Homosassa foul area has shown to give the inshore angler a great outcome. A live shrimp on a jig head or a 1/4-ounce knocker rig has been the best way to target these picky fish. I always tell my clients to wait for the rod to feel as if it’s being slowly pulled out of your hand before setting the hook. Give it a try and let me know what you think. That’s all I have for this week. Get out in this beautiful Florida weather and enjoy the fishing. Tight lines.”
Captain William Toney (352-422-4141) said, “Fishing for trout in shallow water is very good right now. I look for a depression in the surrounding flat that is around 2-foot deep with sponge and coral bottom. Using a D.O.A. 5.5 glow jerk bait with an Owner 3/0 bait style hook through the nose will catch fish. Be prepared to stop the vessel when an angler hooks up because the trout will be in a tight school. Fan cast the area until the bite dies down then move ahead until the bite happens again. Many of these fish will be oversized so once we have the one trout over 19 in the boat I will leave all the other large trout in the water while I unhook them, it’s best for the fish.
“The nearshore rock piles are getting ripe with sheepshead coming up to this full moon. Using live shrimp on a 1/8th-ounce jig head or knocker rig is the best tackle. Incoming tide is best and cast close to the rock from an uptide, anchored boat. You will find that there is a sweet spot on each rock so concentrate your cast there. Incoming tide this weekend will be in the afternoon.”