A week's worth of rain and the runoff associated with it dirtied much of the bay and inland waters. Breezy winds earlier this week did little to help clear the tannic tint.
Offshore waters and even the deeper water of the ships channel inside Tampa Bay seemed less affected. Whether trolling or anchored and bouncing baits on the bottom, the grouper fishing on the rocky edges of the channel has been consistent. Using large whitebait and pinfish has been the most productive tactic. Though we're catching some big ones, mangrove snapper fishing has been slow. We have not seen the numbers we are accustomed to at this time of the year in the bay. Better water clarity will likely jump-start the activity.
A recent offshore trip 10 miles slightly southwest of Pass-a-Grille took us to a spot with a depth of 47 feet. It provided quite the mixed bag. We wrestled a goliath grouper out of his patch of rocks before letting him go. We caught gag grouper to 10 pounds, a few triggerfish, two dozen mackerel in the 2- to 4-pound range, all the "Key West," or white, grunts we wanted, and way more than we cared to catch of juvenile red grouper. It is, however, encouraging to see the future of the stock in such good shape.
Scalloping is great fun for all ages, but you've got to go this week. The last day of the season is Sept. 10. We trailered north on U.S. 19 from St. Petersburg to the Bayport boat ramp in Hernando County on Sunday then ran another 12 miles or so to Homosassa, where we had been tipped the scallops were more plentiful.
The tipster was right. In little time, three boatloads of us had our bag limit (2 gallons whole or 1 pint meat per harvester per day, no more than 10 gallons whole or half gallon meat per vessel anytime) while diving in only 5 to 7 feet of water. Equipment is minimal. A mask, snorkel, fins and a catch bag to put the little critters in is all you need. Gloves are optional.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.