Roller coaster weather patterns keep anglers on their toes

There is an old saying that goes, "10 percent of anglers catch 90 percent of the fish."

There is a very good measure of truth to the adage and I would bet good money the 10 percenters are among those who are acutely attuned to environmental factors such as the weather and water temperatures. Successful anglers keep mental or written logs on what patterns are taking place and tailor their game plans accordingly.

Even the most seasoned and savvy angler can get kicked in the pants on occasion, especially when a winter like the one we are experiencing this year rolls around. January was downright cold, which produced some of the lowest water temperatures in a decade locally. In mid-February the continental cold fronts seemed to vanish with the jet stream pushing the bitter cold and snow to the east and leaving most of the southeast above average.

It is hard to figure these kangaroo type patterns but one thing I'm certain of is our area has jumped from below average to way above in a scant few weeks. Right now, mid-February is shaping up to be what the Ides of March would be in a normal year.

Schools of white bait and sardines are already showing up all along our coast. This is key to the migration of pelagics in the Gulf, which are showing up back on the scene after a hiatus of only a month. Our native inshore species, which are the slightest bit cold sensitive, are already breaking out of their winter holes and out to the flats. On average, this normally takes place around St. Patrick's Day or later.

I'll likely be long gone before anybody figures out whether these changes are part and parcel of climate change in the long run. It is quite possible that the month of March could bring in an unseasonable cold snap and render this all academic.

In the meantime, Suncoast anglers can expect to enjoy catching a whole gamut of species at a time of year which often would only produce the old reliable winter species, the sheepshead.