The Tampa Bay Times

For many, tarpon season has wound down for the year.  Those in the know have remained productive.  Changing tactics this time of year is the key.  While live baiters may have been more successful a few weeks ago, dead baiters now have the advantage.  In last Saturday’s Finale Day of the Suncoast Tarpon Roundup, the top three boats released eleven fish.  All were caught soaking dead baits on the bottom.  While fishing the gulf beaches you’re not going to see as many rolling on the surface as weeks ago.  Tarpon have returned from their offshore spawn and continue to migrate up and down the coast even if they’re not showing much.  For best results, gather a couple buckets of fresh dead shad.  Anchor just outside the swash running parallel to the beach.  Cast baits out in all directions, chum heavily and hang on.  Mangrove snapper fishing in the bay is red hot.  You can pick at them throughout the day but to get em’ good, go early.  Spending too much time catching bait in the morning can cost you.  On several recent trips we’ve gone from catching four at a time until around 9:00am when the bite slows or shuts off completely.  Tide hasn’t seemed to matter much as long as it’s moving.  We do best when we can effectively keep baits on the bottom with 2 ounce weights while fishing the edges of the ships channel.  Whitebait, pilchards, scaled sardines or whatever you care to call them have worked best.  There’s days the bigger ones can’t resist the small pinfish we offer them on our 20 lb. test “mango” outfits with a thirty pound fluorocarbon leader.

Captain Jay Mastry 

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