East winds have returned after a weeklong onslaught of onshore winds. Beach conditions have improved dramatically over the past couple of days. Clearing water and light seas have brought baitfish back right along the beaches. Using a quarter-inch mesh cast net will prevent you from gilling any of the still-smallish pilchards you'll need to help make a good bite better by adding a few handfuls of free chummers into the mix. Find the diving pelicans just after sunup to get you into the right area to net the bait. Jetties, rock piles and hard bottom are holding a variety of species. Fishing around the structure on the bottom can bring action from redfish, trout and the occasional flounder. Meanwhile, free-lining baits off the back of the boat will keep you plenty busy with Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle, and there's always a chance for a cobia encounter this time of year. Inshore, the redfish bite has been consistent during the early morning outgoing tide. Target mullet schools as they vacate the flats on falling water. Top-water plugs are working well at sunup, and live pilchards are producing fish at the bottom part of the tide while working the outer edges of the main flat. The lower tides have also produce a few good snook. We are starting to see some of the larger fish make their way back into the shallows.
Tyson Wallerstein runs Inshore Fishing Charters in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area and can be reached at (727) 692-5868 and via email at flatsmonster.com.