After a lengthy drought of usable-sized whitebait, aka pilchards, we might be coming out of the late-summer microbait season in the northern part of the county. Pelicans are aggressively working the swash channel that has been loaded with small to medium-sized pilchards when conditions are right. Filling a bait well with a few hundred of them can offer a few options. Targeting nearshore structures and jetties, we’ve caught flounder, mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel. Using a quarter-inch mesh-sized cast net to minimize gilling, target the super shallows off the beach. These baits often are seen dimpling the surface before the sun is up, however, there are droves of micro fry in these areas and throwing on them can be a mess. It’s almost better to wait until there’s enough light to see into the water so you can target the larger baits. Anchoring over nearshore reefs puts you in position to chum up a variety of fish. Handfuls of free baits and a fresh chum block off the side of the boat attract schools of medium-sized mackerel and mangrove snapper. An Aberdeen-style hook is light enough to allow the bait to work naturally and has a long shank to guard against cutoffs. Work the bottom with a drop-shot rig and a stouter hook, as you search the edges of the reef for flounder.
Tyson Wallerstein runs Inshore Fishing Charters in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area and can be reached at (727) 692-5868 and via email at flatsmonster.com.