Tarpon fishing is still the big news in local fishing circles.
Most anglers agree there are better numbers of the big silver kings here this year than in quite some time. Beach fishing has been excellent with live threadfin herring being the bait of choice. During periods of strong tides around the full and new moon, tarpon have been feeding in the passes on small crabs. These crabs, usually referred to as "pass crabs," ride the peak of outgoing tides toward the gulf by the thousands. When this happens tarpon rise to the surface and gorge themselves on the endless crab buffet. Though this phenomenon is usually associated with Boca Grande, the same feeding frenzy has been taking place near Egmont Key, the Sunshine Skyway and the mouth of Tampa Bay. Guides have reported as many as 20 hookups a day sight casting crabs to swarms of actively feeding tarpon. The methods are simple. Dip some of the larger pass crabs with a long-handled net, put one on your hook, and cast it up current from the fish you see popping and gulping nearby.
Bottom fishing for tarpon also has been good inside Tampa Bay. Fresh shad are the bait of choice. Most shad slingers are fanatical about the freshness of their bait and spend hours cast-netting and icing them in layers in large coolers before a day's fishing.
The same warm water temperatures that draw the tarpon also bring lots of sharks. Some are smaller, such as blacktips and spinner sharks, and are great fun on light to medium tackle. Others are much bigger. Recent protective measures have helped boost the overall shark population and tarpon guides are seeing many big bulls and hammerheads attacking fish and entire pods of tarpon. If a tug-of-war battle with a 10-foot shark is your idea of fun, you should have no problem picking a fight right now.
Snook fishing has been red hot as well. Big schools have been stacked up along the beaches from Tarpon Springs south. The best action usually takes place early each morning and again just before sunset. Once you find their location it is not uncommon to catch a dozen or more snook by casting live scaled sardines. Keep in mind that snook are out of season and in the middle of their summer spawn so all should be handled gently and released.
Permit action has been good around the deeper wrecks. These large members of the jack family can be seen lazily swimming on the surface with their fins and tails protruding from the surface when the water is calm. Live crabs are the only good choice for permit bait. They will ignore any type of baitfish and most lures but will run over and grab a silver-dollar-sized crab on sight.