August has long been a favorite time to fish for mangrove snapper inside Tampa Bay. This year’s no exception. Bait’s the key. Shrimp, greenbacks and even cut bait can work, but nothing’s better than a frisky whitebait. Spending extra time or traveling further to get them is time well spent. Though they’re growing, much of the bait “raining” on the surface of many flats is smaller than the preferred 3-inchers. We’ve anchored on the deeper edge of the flat and chummed the larger ones to within cast net range. There’s likely store-bought chum that works, but I like my concoction: bread crumbs mixed with a can of sardines in soybean oil and a can of cat food with a splash of menhaden oil. I used Kozy Kitten cat food for years but can’t find it. 9 Lives works great but choose the one with fish in it. It might take 15 minutes of continuous sprinkling of chum to get them balled up, but then it can be one throw and go. With warm water temperatures, we’ve focused on deeper water along the edges of the ships channel. Mangos have ganged up along the rockiest edges and ledges of the channel, from Egmont Key to several miles inside the Skyway. We’ve done exceptionally well in the B & C Cuts of the channel. Others have reported equally good catches in other bends in the “ditch” up to G-Cut.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.