What's hot: The mouth of Tampa Bay is alive with activity and might suggest an early fall migration of pelagics, including kingfish. Large schools of mackerel, jacks and ladyfish could be seen on the surface up and down the channel between Egmont Key and the Sunshine Skyway on Saturday morning. With abundant bait, bottom fishing the rocky edges of the ships channel was on fire. Mangrove snapper were our target, and there were lots of them. Grouper are plentiful, and though most were juveniles, our 20-pound mango tackle was no match for larger ones. In the gulf and the bay, the amount of grouper we've caught in nearly every depth on recent trips indicate the condition of future stock appears healthy.
Tips: We are on full moon tides, and mid tides are ripping. Fish the slower tide around the changes. When fishing for mangrove snapper, I've had success staying down with 2-ounce weights or less.
Bait: Many of the flats around Pinellas Point and the approach to the Sunshine Skyway are holding juvenile Spanish sardines. Whitebait or scaled sardines are automatic, and small pinfish will often attract the biggest ones.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.