What's hot: Certainly the weather and the water temperatures are hot, but the fishing is hot, too. The wind and storms settled down and allowed for offshore exploring. Our nearshore artificial reefs are providing anglers with a smorgasbord of catches. Bait has been plentiful for cast-netters, or for those less energetic, store-bought frozen sardines or squid will do the trick. The last trip out we boated flounder, mangrove snapper, trout, black sea bass, mackerel and a few sporting fish as in ladyfish, dogfish, catfish and a hooked (but not caught) tarpon.
Techniques: Use a navigational map with coordinates in a GPS; anchor up-tide and let the baits back to the structure. For flounder, cast a jighead with bait off to the side of the structure bouncing it in the sand. Other species should be fished closer to the structure using a sinker and hook.
Tip: Using a circle hook is necessary by law, but it helps with fewer hang-ups and snags in the rocks and rubble. Usually you can wiggle the circle hook out with a little finesse. A knocker rig is a good way to set up gear. Using a small sinker riding freely right at the hook, rather than above the leader, you will get a better feel on a bite.
Jackie Otto can be reached at Betts Fishing Center at (727) 518-7637 or firstname.lastname@example.org.