Tarpon are on the move and for the most part, an early day’s start is preferred. Here are a few of the advantages to being the first on the water.
Along the beaches, there will be less boat traffic in the morning and the ability to see the tarpon breaking the surface from a distance is enhanced as the rising sun glistens off their silver backs.
The best areas to set up to locate tarpon are just outside one of the many passes from St. Petersburg to Anna Maria Island.
After spotting tarpon in open water, position the boat in their line of travel from a distance and wait for them to approach you. Do not chase the fish! Once you’re in position, cast your bait out in front of the fish so it has time to enter the strike zone as the tarpon approach. If your first bait offering is ignored, let the fish pass by the boat at least 50 yards before starting the motor to circle around for another try. Putting too much pressure on any one fish will shut the action down completely.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is another hot spot to hook up with the silver king. Some areas of the bridge are better than others, so stake them out early. Once anchored, I like to start chumming with cut bait. While chumming, mix it up. I like to toss out crushed live baits, with my fresh cut bait. The only drawback from using cut bait is it attracts mackerel and sharks, so be prepared to re-rig often. But the advantages of more tarpon hookups and the occasional cobia are worth it.
Snook begin their annual spawn this month, so catch-and-release fishing will be red hot right through August. Catching snook measuring over 30 inches is common place this time of year, so beef up your tackle and use at least 40 lb. fluorocarbon leader. Spawning snook are also most aggressively feeding during a strong tidal flow so plan your trip accordingly.
The redfish have been schooling on many of the grass flats in St. Petersburg and upper Tampa Bay. One key to success is to arrive a few hours before high tide. Oyster beds, mangrove shorelines and grass flats peppered with sandy spots are the best places to target redfish.
Scaled sardines, pinfish or fresh cut bait are all excellent choices for luring redfish to the hook. Ladyfish, mullet, threadfins, sardines and pinfish all make for great cut bait. Whichever you decide to use, broadcast some of the same chunks around the boat to draw in redfish.
Cobia will be invading the flats this month also. I always keep two cobia rigs on the boat. One already rigged with an artificial eel and the other setup for live bait. Some of my favorite cobia baits are pinfish, threadfins, large scaled sardines and jumbo shrimp. When making a cast to a cobia always lead the fish, don’t drop the bait on its head unless you want to watch it swim away, fast.
If you should spot a large southern stingray on the flats look closely, because a cobia could be nearby.
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