This late date in July signals the end of tarpon season for many. Those in the know, however, will be tugging on them for another month if they care to. Last week, a good flow of fish was cruising the "edge" along the gulf beaches between Pass-a-Grille and Sand Key. Along with smaller bunches, a surprising number of relatively large schools could be seen slowly migrating to the north just outside the swim buoys. Providing a choice of live baits suspended beneath corks and dead shad on the bottom was the key. Many tarpon push up inside Tampa Bay late in the season. Fishing the "mud holes" in the bay might not be as glamorous as beach fishing. The water is not exactly pristine and in a lot of my favorite spots there's not a lot to look at … but the fishing can be just as productive. We've jumped a half-dozen tarpon on several of our most recent trips. Sometimes you will have to bounce around until you find them. Gadsen Point, the "Bootleg", Westinghouse and Rocky Point are among my go-to spots. I'll look at Bishop Harbor, Port Manatee and the "middle" if we haven't found them. If it's calm and the tides are right, I'll sneak a peek in Bayboro Harbor, the Snell Isle Reef, the Franklin hole or Lizard Flats. Wherever it might be, the fish are a lot less pressured in these areas. Besides, there's much to be said about not having to fish in a crowd.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.