What's hot: Mangrove snapper fishing inside Tampa Bay peaks in August, and when conditions are right, it doesn't get much better. I prefer working the edges of the ships channel when the tide allows, effectively holding baits on the bottom with only 2 ounces of weight. Especially during the stronger tides of the new and full moon phase, it may be more productive fishing structure in shallower water. Several hard-bottom areas and particularly the artificial reefs in the bay are good choices.
Bait: Choices may vary, and many can be effective. Shrimp, chunks of cut bait and squid can produce but are often devoured by other pesky bottom dwellers. A frisky whitebait is preferred; it's worth the extra effort to gather some.
Alternatives: I recently returned from a fishing vacation to Marathon, and lobster season is in full swing and gets much of the attention. But the night bite for mangrove snapper is like nothing I've seen. In two nights, two boats full of us caught 500 mangroves and quit at midnight. If you go, be patient. Anchored on the reef line of 70 feet, we chummed for an hour each night before raising them to the surface. We could have used cane poles if we had them, but 10- to 12-pound spin tackle provided incredible action.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.