What's hot: Fishing over live hard bottom near the mouth of the bay has consistently produced sea bass, snapper and grouper. Large Spanish mackerel have also shown up on occasion. Lighter tackle has provided the best action. We've even landed several legal-sized grouper on 10-pound test spinning rods.
Bait and tackle: Smaller baits found on most shallow grass flats are working perfectly for all species. Use a quarter-inch cast net to acquire them. The ones that shake out are used live, and the ones that are gilled become chum. Use a knocker rig for bottom fishing and an unweighted free line with a short length of wire leader for surface feeders.
Tips: Early morning top-water plug fishing has been good for large trout. Choose a secluded grass flat that has not had a lot of boat traffic. Start on the edge and quietly work your way into sandy potholes. Methodically fan cast the area with lures that either zigzag in a "walk the dog"-type motion or chug with a splashy action.
Brent Gaskill runs Summer Vacation Charters out of the St. Petersburg area and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (727) 510-1009.