The Tampa Bay Times

Bait has become a lot more consistent in north Pinellas County. Although red tide remains patchy, it’s been pretty clear north of Clearwater and hordes of sardines are finally roaming the beaches. And as usual, they are growing each week, finally large enough to use, after netting them with a 1/4-inch mesh cast net. Early morning at dawn is best for finding schools of bait to use. As the sun rises the timid sardines will fall off into deeper waters, making them harder to locate. When the bait is plentiful, fishing can be very good. Chumming is a very productive method to find cooperative fish like snook, redfish, trout and ladyfish on the flats. Tools such as a chum bat, essentially a throwing device, can help distribute several baits a longer distance than can be done by hand. Casting into the chummed waters is very effective for hooking up to predator fish searching for another easy meal. On a recent trip, we were able to draw in a few species to one area. Redfish began blowing up on the surface, chasing the dazed baits. Soon a few snook followed and eventually trout and jacks were drawn into the mix. Ladyfish and small snapper will often show up also. Early fall fishing can offer so many options with different species, it’s hard not to have fun while out on the water. Kids and adults alike have plenty of rod bending action, even if we aren’t hooking large fish all the time. There’s nothing like catching a fish on almost every cast, even if they’re small jacks, ladyfish or undersized redfish.