What's hot: Tarpon will continue to be among the best bets through this month. Plenty of them are roaming the nearshore waters along the beaches. However, characteristic of this time of year, many have pushed into the bays, rivers, harbors and backwaters, including some deep-water residential canals. Some have ventured into the Manatee River, and the channel leading to Port Manatee has been holding some. From the seawall, I've observed rolling tarpon in Bayboro Harbor, and tarpon can be found at the major bridges in Tampa Bay cruising the shadow line to ambush bait being swept through.
Heating up: August and through September has been my most productive time fishing for mangrove snapper at the edges and ledges of the ships channel in Tampa Bay. This time of year the mangrove snapper are bigger, and there are often a lot of them. To catch most, you'll need 20-pound tackle, but you'll likely get busted off by some of the grouper that share the same areas. Depending on bait size, a 1/0 or 2/0 hook with a 2-ounce egg sinker works well. A 1½-foot length of 20-pound fluorocarbon is all the leader you'll need, generally. Whitebait tops the bait list. Juvenile Spanish sardines also work but are not always readily available.
Be aware: Porpoises have become increasingly aggressive along areas of the channel, helping themselves to hooked fish. If they begin getting more fish than you, you may have no choice but to move.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.