Bait schools are showing up and game fish are hammering them. Make sure the live well pump is good and the well is clean. You will want to use live baits to catch snook, reds, tarpon, cobia and grouper.
Snook and reds are hitting whitebait and scaled sardines. Most snook are on the east and west sides of Tampa Bay as they migrate toward their summer hangouts. These fish feed better when you chum them with live bait. Throw out a few baits at a time; you want to keep them interested but not overfed. Free-line the baits or cork them so they won't get in the grass.
Tarpon are starting to show up around the mouth of the bay and cobia are here if you can find them. Cobia like to swim with tarpon, stingrays and manatees. They hang around docks, pilings and channel makers. It's good to have a 20-pound test rod ready because cobia always show when you're not ready. The tarpon are feeding on threadfins, sardines and pinfish. The cobia will eat the same baits, plus lures, when they're in the feeding mood.
Trout in the 5- 7-pound range are being caught on live bait, topwater plugs and jigs. They are feeding best in the morning and during strong tides. Anglers fishing for redfish with whitebait are catching bigger trout but you can still catch a monster using a topwater plug. Many bigger trout will have roe. This is why I have a 24-inch maximum. I figure it's better to let the big females restock the flats for future trips.
_ Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.