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Captain's corner | Jay Mastry

Tarpon become time-consuming fun

Because it's hard to get enough of a good thing, tarpon fishing has continued to head my list of things to do.

Impressive numbers of silver kings continue to roam the nearshore waters of the gulf beaches and will likely do so well into this month.

While most of our bites lately have been on fly-lined bottom baits, at least a bite or two each trip has been the result of offering live baits suspended under corks.

Live baits are readily available and can be jiggled at will on gold-hook rigs in the 12- to 16-foot depths that we are anchored in.

Fresh dead shad has been the first choice for baits soaked on bottom.

While many tarpon will choose to stay in the gulf for the duration of the season, others will filter their way into the bays, backwaters, bayous and rivers.

In their never-ending search for a food supply, late-season tarpon will likely be found in the vicinity of the largest concentrations of glass minnows and other herds of baitfish.

My favorite time to pursue mangrove snapper in Tampa Bay has long been August and into September. For weeks, anglers fishing the Skyway Bridge, particularly at night, have caught full-grown mangrove snapper on baits intended for tarpon.

Others have reported limits of the tasty snapper on many of the artificial reefs and edges of the ships channel in the bay.

Mangrove snapper aren't necessarily particular about what they chew, but they have their favorites. Shrimp and even pieces of cut bait will work at times.

However, nothing gets their attention like a frisky 3-inch whitebait, so it's worth the extra time to gather some. Not only are whitebaits preferred, but they greatly cut down on the often-pesky bycatch that intercepts baits intended for the mangrove snapper.

Mackerel appear to be here to stay because of the great amount of bait around. From the Skyway Bridge to the Gandy, these toothy fish have been terrorizing schools of bait all summer.

When hunting big mackerel, I anchor over hard bottom in Southwest Pass with a chum bag and a livewell full of chummers.

Fly-lined whitebait on light spinning tackle will produce best, especially if you focus around a tide change.

For those looking to get wet, now is the time to do it.

Spiny lobster season opens Aug. 6, but don't forget, you'll need a lobster stamp. Scallop season is also going on.

And for those snorkelers going in the water off Homosassa and Bayport, the stinging jellyfish that had been a nuisance have cleared considerably.

Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.

Tarpon become time-consuming fun 07/31/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 9:22am]
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