What's hot: After a long drought of usable-sized whitebait, a.k.a. pilchards, we might be coming out of the late summer micro-bait season in the northern part of Pinellas County. Pelicans are working the swash channel aggressively as it has been loaded with small- to medium-sized pilchards when the conditions are right. Filling your baitwells with a few hundred of these little guys can provide quite a few options. Targeting nearshore structures and jetties, we've caught flounder, mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel with good consistency.
Careful where you cast: Using a quarter-inch mesh cast net to minimize gilling, target the super shallows right off the beach. These baits are often dimpling the surface before the sun is up. However, there are droves of micro fry in these same areas and throwing on them can really be a mess. It's almost better to wait until there's enough light to see into the water, so you can target the larger baits.
Live chumming: Anchor over nearshore reefs to be in position to chum up a variety of fish. Handfuls of free baits and a fresh chum block off the side of the boat will attract schools of medium-sized mackerel and mangrove snapper. An Aberdeen-style hook is light enough to let the bait work naturally and has a long enough shank to guard against cutoffs. Work the bottom with a drop-shot rig and a stouter hook as you search the edges of the reef for flounder.
Tyson Wallerstein runs Inshore Fishing Charters in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area and can be reached at (727) 692-5868 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.