Mangrove snapper have continued to be our go-to target and I don't remember it being any better. Trips offshore and well inside Tampa Bay have each provided easy, nearly non-stop activity. Because they've been chewing shrimp so well, we've not bothered hunting whitebait. Seldom would I go fishing without something lively swimming in my baitwell but recently we've gotten away with it. On trips in the gulf, chunking ladyfish, mackerel, bonita or about anything else we catch has worked well while bouncing the bottom for grouper. Frozen sardines and squid are always the standby. Since settling into this month, sheepshead have significantly picked up the slack inside the bay. Large, roe-laden females have increased the keeper-to-throwback ratio as they make their way to the gulf to spawn. They've been gnawing on the same shrimp halves along the rocky edges of the ships channel. You'll not stop many larger grouper with it, but 20-pound tackle is sufficient for sheepshead and mangrove snapper. A No. 1 hook, a 11/2-foot length of 20-pound fluorocarbon and a 2-ounce egg sinker work. I may tackle up a bit with bigger snapper. A little bigger hook when using a whole shrimp will increase the hookup percentage.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.