Summer temperatures on the flats have been in the low 90s by midday, forcing anglers to seek cooler water around the nearshore artificial reefs in north Pinellas. Loading the baitwell in the early morning with small to medium whitebaits and heading a few miles offshore can guarantee rod-bending action. Rocky hard bottom and the structure of the reefs hold a variety of fish to catch. Mangrove snapper, small grouper, grunts and flounder are available. Using a heavy split shot, 30-pound leader and a small hook, drop bait to the bottom and reel one rotation to suspend the bait slightly. Light tackle rods can usually handle most of the nearshore species; however, a large grouper or cobia can sometimes get the upper hand. Mackerel are starting to show up, chasing the hordes of small hatchling baits around the reefs. Long shank hooks or a short length of light wire can prevent most breakoffs. Though the flats are warm, the grasses nearer the passes have held high numbers of trout, small mackerel and ladyfish. The beaches are still holding a few snook, though the numbers are dwindling as the snook begin to transition inshore after the spawn season. Incoming tides are cooler than outgoing, and morning bites are best before the sun gets too high. Always hydrate well, even on days with cloud cover and rain.
Brian Caudill fishes from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs. He can be reached at (727) 365-7560 and captbrian.com.