What's hot: Mangrove snapper will stack up along the rocky edges and ledges of the ships channel from Egmont Key to inside the Skyway Bridge for several miles. Others will gang up on the many artificial reefs in the bay or gather on the scattered rock in Southwest Pass. The channel leading into Port Manatee is another option.
Tips: I like mangrove snapper fishing in the bay when a 2-ounce egg sinker is all the weight necessary to get on the bottom. When fishing the edges of the channel near the new and full moon phases focus on the slower tides. Stronger-than-normal flow during mid tides make it difficult to effectively get and stay down in the zone.
Bait and tackle: Small pinfish, shrimp and cut baits will work. But there is no better bait than a 3-inch whitebait. A 20-pound test mainline, an 18-inch length of 20-pound test fluorocarbon leader and a hook to match the bait size works best. A few break-offs are inevitable with the lighter tackle, but heavier tackle noticeably decreases the bites.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142