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Favorable weekend weather opened the playing field as we fished for late-season tarpon. Wednesday's full moon likely will bring out the best of it.

No longer restricted to the protected bay waters, on Sunday we explored the gulf beaches near Longboat Key. Without effects of red tide visible, we saw a fair flow of fish, jumped three and released two on the last of the incoming tide. Both were more than 100 pounds and neither could resist a fresh shad on bottom.

As is common in late July, tarpon have roamed well up the bay. At the end of last week we caught a 130-pounder near the Courtney Campbell Causeway and Courtney Haskins, 10, picked on one twice her size along the dredge hole near the Howard Frankland Bridge. We caught half a dozen others last week near the channel leading to Port Tampa.

Silverkings will congregate this week at all major bridges. Stronger-than-normal outgoing evening tide, and the crabs pulled out with it, will keep them there. Tarpon also will gather in the passes at Egmont Key to ambush baits that get flushed through them.

The night bite near shores of gulf beaches likely will produce in areas void of nagging red tide algae bloom. Check tide tables and plan trips around those most productive periods. An hour and a half surrounding changes will be my picks.

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