Large schools of bait fry and glass minnows have moved into the bay, and mackerel, jack crevelle and bonita have followed them. These open-water fish are bona fide speedsters and a blast to battle on light tackle. Basic skills are all that's required.
Tackle: A 7-foot medium spinning rod or a 9-foot, 7- to 9-weight fly rod is a good choice. Use reels that hold about 250 yards of 8-10 pound line to match your rod. Big jacks and bonita make blazing runs so don't under-tackle. A length of light steel leader is a good idea for mackerel as they have razor-sharp teeth. Scaled sardines are a great bait if you can get them. But artificial baits can work just as well.
Tip: Go to the birds. Schools of feeding fish drive the bait to the surface where gulls and terns get their share, so look for diving birds. Generally, smaller baits work better. The fish are feeding on glass minnows, so match your lure size to the bait. This can be great fly rod stuff. Try a light-colored minnow fly on a No. 2 hook and move it as quickly as possible. You don't have to cast a long distance, just get in the water while they're feeding. Spin casters might try an all-white Cotee jig or a DOA Terror Eyz. When approaching a feeding school, kill the engine up tide or wind and drift in. They're not real boat-shy but try not to get too heavy-handed.
Paul Hawkins runs FlatsGuy charters out of St. Petersburg and be reached at (727) 560-6762.