What's hot: Strong winds have changed to breezes and made the water clear, bringing elusive baits we have been seeking. Larger threadfin herring around the markers and Sunshine Skyway and perfect-sized scaled sardines are beginning to cruise the grass flats. The larger threadfins can be caught using sabiki rigs or cast nets in deeper waters. The smaller scaled sardines on the flats can be coaxed in using chum then a cast net with smaller mesh, like quarter-inch or three-eighths-inch.
Techniques: The larger threadfin herring can be used for tarpon. Cutting them can make for excellent chum to bring large schools of mackerel to the boat, then tossing out live scaled sardines, which are smaller and will attract big mackerel. King mackerel might be a pleasant and feisty surprise while free-lining bait in the chum slick, so be prepared.
Tips: Strong full moon tides have had the current ripping through our passes this week. Many sportfish are sitting just outside our passes waiting for baitfish to be washed out. Many night anglers have been reporting large snook and tarpon biting at all our passes. Use tackle according to your catch; wire leaders for kings and macks, 30-pound leaders for big snook (release them in good shape) and 50-plus-pound leaders for tarpon.
Jackie Otto can be reached at Betts Fishing Center at (727) 518-7637 or firstname.lastname@example.org.