What's hot: Mangrove snapper have settled into the rocky edges of the ships channel from the Skyway to several miles inside Tampa Bay. We caught 30 during each of our past few trips, and at this time of year, a bunch are full-grown. For best results, we focused on the slower current. Mid tides coming off this full moon phase are just too strong to effectively get and keep baits on the bottom.
Bait: Pilchards — or what I call whitebait —are the best. Much of the bait seen "raining" on the surface on area flats are too small to use. But anchoring and chumming with a concoction of bread crumbs, jack mackerel and menhaden oil (or some other home recipe) often draw bigger ones. The gulf pier at Fort De Soto has consistently held assorted sizes of greenbacks and whitebait.
Tackle: You will lose a few because of the heavy structure, but 20-pound tackle will get most of them. I like a 1/0 hook, a 2-ounce sinker and a length of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader. Take a couple of stout rods. There's some big grouper hunkered down on those same ledges the mangos like.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.