Light winds and perfect tides set the stage for some of the best inshore/nearshore fishing of the summer thus far. Unfortunately, big changes are coming, with the arrival of a major weather system early this week. Onshore winds will dominate for the next several days, shutting down beach fishing. Schools of tarpon have been traveling north and south all along the beaches, and fishing for them really got good late last week. Free-lining small crabs into milling pods of fish resulted in several hook-ups. The fish were easy to spot for most of the morning, and once the breeze picked up and the fish weren't showing as well, we switched to anchor fishing. Keeping out a spread of lively threadfins, which can be caught on sabiki rigs a half-mile or so off the beach, kept the action going all afternoon. Nearshore bottom fishing for gag grouper and hogfish has been very good in depths as shallow as 20 feet. While, fishing with live shrimp on a 1-ounce knocker rig, we've been catching enough hogfish to make it worthwhile. When the bite really gets going and your bottom machine is lit up, try free-lining down a hand-sized grass grunt on a 50- or 60-pound leader. If there is a big gag down there, you'll probably get bit.
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.