A nice warm-up between fronts this week has made for some very good flats fishing. Snook, trout and Spanish mackerel are easy targets throughout Old Tampa Bay. Bait stocks remain strong in Tampa Bay for now. Mixed sizes of pilchards can be found just off the edges of many of the grass flats. Look for the pelicans, and filling a live well shouldnít take long. Thereís lots of small bait mixed in so using a quarter-inch mesh cast net is still a good idea. Look for the trout and a few redfish to be holding off the mangroves. Target the transition bottom where the sand out in front of the mangroves gives way to patchy grass, filled with potholes which make for perfect ambush habitat. Clean water has the fish a bit leader shy so donít hesitate to lighten up your leader if you see fish but arenít getting bit. During the higher tidal stages, snook have been very active along the mangroves especially areas around creek mouths where they are heading to winter. Focus on the warmest part of the day for the best snook fishing. The snook will become more temperamental with each passing cold front. Spanish mackerel are schooled heavily around deeper bottom structure and artificial reefs in Tampa Bay. Live chumming will bring the mackerel right behind the boat along with the occasional cobia. Watch for tripletail, there have been plenty around and with all of the crab traps out right now you have lots of buoys to check.
Tyson Wallerstein runs Inshore Fishing Charters in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area and can be reached at (727) 692-5868 and via email at flatsmonster.com.