With a full moon around the corner, snook and tarpon are getting ready to start spawning in the bay area. Both are starting to gather in passes to feed. My favorite to fish for is tarpon, also known as the silver king. Tarpon use the beach like a freeway to move from spot to spot. They have big eyes and great senses, so when approaching them, use a trolling motor or the wind so you don't spook them. I use a 7- to 8-foot XXH rod with a 6500 to 10,000 series reel spooled up with a good 50- to 80-pound braided line to a 60- to 80-pound leader to a 6/0 hook. A nice big threadfin is one of the top baits. Snook are moving out of the rivers to their summer spawning areas, so start fishing areas such as the mouth of the Little Manatee River, Port Manatee and Bishop Harbor on the south shore. In the upper bay, the Weedon Island area and the sides of the bridge will be holding good numbers of snook. The top baits for me are a sardine or a big grunt. On the flats, I use a 25-pound leader with a 1/0 circle hook; around the bridges, I step it up to a 40-pound leader and a 2/0 hook. Redfish schools are all over the bay, and fish up to 35 inches are being caught on the flats. They've been mixed in with big schools of mullet. Weedon Island, Fourth Street, the flat around Joe Island and Tarpon Key are the go-to areas to start looking for the sea of red. As the weather gets warmer, dead bait on the bottom works better than live.
Jim Lemke charters out of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, and can be reached at (813) 917-4989 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.