Unseasonably warm temperatures have extended the season for a number of species, bait fish included. Usually this time of year, live baiters are reduced to offering shrimp or pinfish. We've readily been able to cast-net as many whitebait and greenbacks as needed on most grass flats in southern Pinellas County. Kingfish have been the most notable late-staying visitors. Last weekend we observed as many kings as I've seen all season. There were five in the air at a time, skyrocketing when we "dumped" our baitwell after a bottom fishing trip in 45 feet, just south of the shipping channel. We've caught several and been cut off a bunch while grouper and snapper fishing with 20- and 30-pound test fluorocarbon, short shank hooks and egg sinkers. While gag grouper season is winding down, indicators suggest the mangos are here to stay. Though lately we've had to weed through some juveniles to get the ones we want inside Tampa Bay, the keeper ratio is much improved in the gulf. When water temperatures plummet and run the bait fish away, worry not. Mangos will snap up shrimp and whitebait, and some sheepshead will congregate in many of the same locations as they begin fattening for their spawn.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.