What's hot: With strong westerly winds, beach fishing for tarpon has been hit or miss. Mornings with light winds have been best. Good numbers of tarpon are traveling the gulf beaches a few yards to a mile offshore. Typically, pods of four to 20 tarpon can be found rolling on the surface. Harder to spot but perhaps the better feeders are pods holding near the bottom in 10 to 20 feet. Look for gray areas resembling bait schools and muddy-water patches. A slow, quiet approach is important. All bay bridges are holding tarpon.
Equipment: Heavy 8-foot spinning tackle with 30-pound braid should work in shallow waters. Fishing around the bridges or in the deep passes may require heavier gear. An 8- to 9-foot "boat" rod matched with a 4/0 reel is a good choice. This tackle often doubles as a grouper rod. For the fly folks, a 12-weight rod with reel and line to match is the norm.
Bait: Popular choices are shad, threadfin herring, large whitebait (also known as horse minnows), pinfish and crabs. Drift the passes with a pass crab during falling tide. For the shallows, kill the engine a good distance from the pod and cast a bait in the pod's line of travel. Be patient.
Paul Hawkins runs FlatsGuy charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 560-6762.