Most game fish stop feeding during the hottest parts of the day this time of year. Plan your trips when the water is at its coolest. Nighttime, early morning and sundown are prime times to get out.
Night fishing for mangrove snapper is best around the full moon. Saturday through Wednesday will have the moon at its brightest point. The edge of the shipping channel, the Skyway Bridge and most of the markers in Tampa Bay will hold good numbers of snapper. Try to find the areas holding snapper during the daytime. When you return to these spots at night they will be productive. Scouting for snapper during the day is much safer than searching at night. When you find a good spot during the day, you can then chart a safe course for a return at night.
Whitebait and light tackle is all you need. A 20-pound test rig with a 30-pound leader and enough weight to reach the bottom is a good start. Make sure your rod has a sensitive tip to feel the strike of a snapper. If the rod is too thick, you won't feel them hitting the bait and you'll spent a lot of time fishing with an empty hook. When fishing at night, make sure your navigation and spotlights are in good working order.
Dock lights and bridges near a pass are loaded with snook, redfish and trout. This is the last month of summer when they will hang out in these areas. You may find some action after August, but most of the fish will leave in the first weeks of September. They leave because the daylight hours shorten, and this starts their migration to the upper parts of the bay. When fishing the docks, use a free-lined live shrimp. Most of the fish under the docks are waiting for shrimp to be flushed past the dock when the tide is moving strong. If you cast a live shrimp up current and let it drift to the fish, you will get more strikes. Around the bridges, use a grunt or croaker rigged to a 50-pound outfit and enough weight to keep the bait close to the pilings. The best action will be at the start and end of a tide. Saturday and Sunday should have a good bite on the incoming tide. Starting Monday through Saturday look for the best action to be on the outgoing tide.
If you don't like to travel at night, try these spots during sunup or sundown. The action should last a few hours after sunup, but the bite can be the best after the sun goes down.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.