What's hot: Calm conditions over the past few days have made nearshore mangrove snapper fishing pretty accessible. Ledges, rock piles and artificial reefs in 15-40 feet are holding schools.
Tactics: Chum the snapper near the surface. A combination of frozen chum blocks (be sure to bring a couple) and fresh pilchards or frozen sardines work great. Anchor well uptide of the fish, which often show as a red ball holding a few feet up from the bottom or structure. Secure your chum bag off the stern, and drop wounded pilchards or cut sardines behind the boat. It will take a few minutes for the snapper to rise. But when they do, they typically don't stay up long in the shallower depths. Use an inshore rod with a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and 2/0 hook.
Tip: Small- to medium-sized pilchards are abundant along beaches. These young baits are not the easiest to cast. But free-spooled back to the snapper, rigged under a weighted cork or weighted for bottom fishing work great. This is a great time to live chum for action fish, including Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, trout and jack crevalle. Target deep grass beds inside passes for the most consistent action.
Tyson Wallerstein runs Inshore Fishing Charters in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area and can be reached at (727) 692-5868 and via email at [email protected]