Lots of species to cast to, so be ready for anything.

By DOUG HEMMER Times correspondent
Published May 11, 2007

There are multiple species to target that aren't available during the rest of the year. Snook, redfish, trout, mackerel, bluefish, pompano, permit, kingfish, cobia, and tarpon are hanging inside the bay and along the coast. This time of year it's important to have a variety of baits and tackle to handle the different species out there.

Snook, redfish and trout are feeding close to the mangrove shorelines and oyster bars. Threadfins, scaled sardines and whitebait are the baits of choice. The snook are moving to the passes for the summer spawn. Most of the feeder bridges close to a pass are holding snook. Large sardines and threadfins are producing the most strikes. The redfish are close to the oyster bars and should be found in the same areas week in and week out. The trout are holding over the grass piles in 4 to 6 feet of water.

Mackerel and kingfish can be found inside Tampa Bay. The Skyway area has been the hot spot. Look for the birds flocking over the surface. Then look for the mackerel striking at the baits. Use whitebait to catch the mackerel and use a legal-sized mackerel to catch the kings. There are plenty of mackerel to catch and few kings. The kings will be in the 25- to 40-pound class. Use a double stringer rigged to a 20-pound-test rod that holds at least 250 yards of line. Deploy this rig while mackerel fishing or slow troll the edge of the shipping channel.

The Skyway Bridge is holding the tarpon schools. Most of the fish are hitting threadfins free-lined in the shadow line of the bridge. Anglers will anchor up current of the bridge with a throw ball attached to the anchor. When a tarpon strikes the bait, set the hook hard before it jumps. Then untie the anchor line and throw the ball clear. Try to get the boat over the tarpon in case you have to maneuver around the pilings. When the tarpon has cleared the bridge, be prepared for a long battle. Some of the tarpon will be more than 150 pounds and might take one to two hours to land. Use the boat to drive toward the tarpon so the angler can collect line. Then put the boat in neutral and let the tarpon rip off more line. Keep repeating this until the tarpon is boatside. It's better to pop the leader with your gloved hands. Holding the fish boatside or lifting it out of the water for unhooking increases the chances that the tired fish will become pray for sharks.

Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.