Current conditions: Often after a tropical storm or other weather system with strong west winds, fishing conditions deteriorate. Bait schools scatter, pelagic species such as kingfish and mackerel head offshore, and the nearshore waters of the gulf become muddy. Strong new moon tides this week and east winds will help accelerate the cleanup of the mess Ida left.
Recovery key: The key to recovery is bait schools getting back together, and they have begun to do that. A sightseeing trip to the Sunshine Skyway fishing piers early Saturday revealed plenty of bait at both. We observed anglers at each structure easily cast-netting whitebait and greenbacks that could be seen on the surface along the uptide side. Despite the muddy water, bait schools also were at both fishing piers on Fort De Soto. Bait had not ganged back up at the normally dependable end marker of the Pass-a-Grille Channel, but birds could be seen pounding the surface south of it in the same depth.
What's ahead: If weather forecasts prove accurate and we get a week's worth of east winds, be ready. Nearshore waters will clear, bait schools will be drawn back to the beach, and with water temperature just the way they like it, kingfish will be in hot pursuit.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 321-2142.