Consecutive days of easterly winds have calmed the nearshore gulf waters and have drawn bait schools practically to the beach. A mix of whitebait, greenbacks and even a few juvenile Spanish sardines can be cast-netted with relative ease inside the swash within a few feet of the shoreline along St. Pete Beach. Even a quarter-inch mesh cast net will gill a few, but with a little effort, you’ll likely get enough larger ones to fish with. Smaller ones have provided all the “chummers” we’ve needed while mackerel fishing just a couple of miles off the beach in 20 feet. I prefer to anchor, deploy a tournament-quality chum block and maintain a steady stream of live chummers until we get the party started behind the boat. Like many species, mackerel can become finicky. On a recent trip while anchored, our offerings were refused. We tried lightening leaders, eliminating leaders, long shank hooks, smaller and lighter hooks, lighter chumming, then heavier. Nothing worked until we pulled the hook and began trolling. Almost immediately we had two and sometimes three at a time. For whatever reason, that morning they found moving baits more appealing. The point: be versatile. If one method’s not productive, try another. I’m pleased to report none of the ill effects of the Red Tide bloom that has wreaked havoc on our neighbors to the south.

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