Midsummer fishing can be spectacular if you pick the right species to target. Big tarpon and even bigger sharks can provide the experience of a lifetime. Tampa Bay is a summertime hot spot for bull sharks and late season resident tarpon. Deep holes of 20 feet or more often hold bait and, in turn, predators. Fishing with big cutbaits such as half a mullet or half a mackerel will keep catfish at bay and allow your baits to let the scent out, enticing the big fish. Tackle is the same for both species — a heavy action 7-foot rod, either spinning or conventional, and a reel that can hold a couple hundred yards of 50-pound braid. A heavy monofilament leader of a 125-pound test or greater or some heavy piano wire will work for both species as long as you use a big enough hook; with a 1-pound bait or better you need a 9/0 or 10/0 wide gap circle hook. Tarpon and sharks are excellent night predators; tarpon are cruising the shadow lines of most bridges. A cautious approach with the trolling motor will let you stalk fish along the shadow line. Try casting artificial lures like a half-ounce buck tail jig with a soft plastic jerk bait trailer, both in white. This lure closely resembles a drifting shrimp, which is what tarpon are looking for.
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.