The Tampa Bay Times

Mangrove snapper fishing in Tampa Bay is still about as good as it gets.  For those of us that haven’t yet had our fill of tarpon fishing this season, there are still plenty to play with.  On our last two tarpon trips this last week we jumped six and released four up to 140 lbs., while anchored over a patch of rocky bottom well inside Tampa Bay.  In a first for me, among our by-catch of assorted sharks and a few catfish were nine tripletails.  The largest was 13 lbs. and several of the others were close to that.  Many tripletail are caught on shrimp, jigs or a variety of small live bait.  Each of these ate large chunks of mullet – and a couple were on big pinfish suspended beneath corks intended for tarpon.  I’ve fished that same spot probably a hundred times this time of year in my lifetime and never seen a tripletail there.  Hard to explain.  Tarpon are still cruising the gulf beaches along the swim buoys from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater and beyond.  Shad have been hard to come by lately.  Those fortunate to gather some for bait have been most successful.  While mullet are a great bait in the bay, I’ve not had a lot of success using them along our beaches for tarpon.  Alternatives could include ladyfish, mackerel, pinfish and grunts.  Suspend a couple live baits under corks to increase your chances of getting bit.

Captain Jay Mastry