Summer has set in and the fishing is just as hot. As scheduled, tarpon are moving along down the north Pinellas beaches and into our passes. The numbers are growing and will only get better in the coming weeks. Pods of fish are easy to sight cast if you are in their swimming lanes, just one to two hundred yards from shore. Leading them with artificial swim baits or live crab, threadfin herring or sardines is the most productive way to get bit. Unfortunately, not every group of fish will decide to eat. It takes a lot of patience and a several presentations to get a hook up as well as a very stealthy approach. But there are those days where the fish tend to eat more often, especially leading up to the stronger moon phases. Just prior to a new or full moon will stimulate most fish to eat better. Crabs begin to flush out into the gulf on the strong falling tides, creating a feeding frenzy for tarpon. I will often have a long dipping net to secure a few crab for casting. You’ll need to remove the claws before trying to put them on a hook or you will get a pretty painful surprise. Drift fishing the passes is also an effective method. Employing a large float with 5 – 6 feet of leader to the hook will place the bait in their path. Also, freelining large cut threadfins is working too. We are sight casting less when fishing the passes, yet if the fish are coming through you will definitely see them rolling.


The flats and nearshore waters are brimming with bait in North Pinellas County. Schools of threadfin herring are moving through the passes along with hordes of glass minnows. The minnows aren’t typically a bait I use, however snook, mackerel, trout and redfish all devour mouthfuls of them when they are nearby. Chumming for bait on the flats is still producing a live well full of greenbacks which are more resilient than most other baits. Trout have made the transition towards the beaches, abandoning the islands in St. Joseph Sound. The swash channels and rock jetties are holding good numbers of the larger variety and the nearby grass flats adjacent to the passes are holding high numbers of smaller trout. Throwing a handful of baits in the area will soon get them popping the surface in pursuit of an easy meal. I instruct my clients to count to two or three when they feel a bite before they reel, allowing the circle hooks to do their job. Snook are congregating around the points of the barrier islands. They haven’t yet fully committed to the beaches although they are not far away. Most of my hook ups have been on larger greenbacks or threadfins. Redfishing has been hit or miss, better around the stronger moon phases. There aren’t many large schools of redfish to target, mostly small groups of ten fish or less. Fishing the mangrove line on the high tides are producing fish when moving methodically down the way until you find an overhang or oyster bar holding fish. 


We have had fairly stable temperatures for the last couple of weeks but are dealing with a cold front which is fairly typical for this time of year. Prior to the fronts the fishing can be very good. But during and after, especially with temperatures dropping quickly, the fish can shut down until they acclimate to the cooler waters. Combined with highwinds, water temperatures can drop 7 or 8 degrees in a day or two. This can make finding live bait difficult. I will usually take a live shrimp purchased at the bait store, and artificials on trips just after the cold fronts. Trout are very likely to continue responding to shrimp especially when other fish are less likely to bite. Snook will often stay put during the front but not cooperate as much. Redfish are also likely to eat and can be found around docks and oyster bars. There had been a few redfish schools in North Pinellas that were roaming the flats eating pinfish. Often, Highwinds and muddy waters can push fish off of the flats into the deeper channels. It may take a day or two for them to resume their previous activity. But there are lots of fish to target in the protected back country areas when exposed flats are beaten up by the winds. Residential canals can hold sheepshead, redfish and snook and even trout. Patience is key, and spring is just around the corner.