What's hot: Hordes of juvenile sardines have saturated area beaches, and Spanish mackerel and a host of other predators are moving in to feed on them.
The bait: Light winds, particularly offshore winds, will make the swash channel easily accessible for cast-netting. Use a quarter-inch mesh net and be selective when throwing because some baits are way too small and could hang up in your net.
Tactics: Anchoring and chumming near bird activity can bring the fish right behind the boat. Use a fresh chum block. Meanwhile, tossing live pilchards while free-lining baits downcurrent on a light-wire Aberdeen-style hook with a 30- or 40-pound leader makes up the terminal end of things.
What else: Mangrove snapper remain good. They can be targeted as shallow as inland bridges, and artificial reefs in 25-45 feet hold big ones. Chum with a combination of frozen chum blocks and cut sardines to lure the snapper off the bottom. The key is to downsize tackle, including hook, weights and leader. Once the snapper are chummed up, make your offering appear to be a cut piece of chum in every aspect, including size and rate of fall.
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]