By JAY MASTRY
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 1, 2000
The Spanish mackerel invasion along our coastal waters has continued.
Many of the weather buoys, channel markers, range towers and sea buoys that traditionally hold bait also are holding mackerel that are there devouring them.
Artificial reefs in the 30-foot range and most hard-bottom areas inside have been feeding grounds for these razor-toothed speedsters.
If you are live-baiting them, whitebait has become abundant on many of our area's grass flats. The shallows of Pinellas Point, the outside "Clam Bar" and the area commonly known as the "Three Stakes" have been consistent. Throw a quarter-inch mesh cast net if you have one; otherwise you'll gill some of the peewees. You'll catch all you want by throwing on schools you see "raining" on the surface. You'll catch bigger ones, though, if you take the time to anchor on the deeper edge of the flat and chum with a mixture of bread crumbs, cat food (one that includes fish as an ingredient) and some shad or anise oil. This technique also will weed out the juvenile threadfins. They don't chum, they don't live well if you put a bunch in your bait well, and their scales will clog your drain.
Trolling hardware can be equally effective when the bite is on. A No. 1 spoon works well and may be trolled quickly to cover more ground when working moving fish.
Whichever method you use, a short length of No. 1 or 2 wire will prevent some cut-offs. Pick up a leader straightener before you go. They take those curls out of the wire you get after each bite and allow you to catch several fish on the same leader.
Mangrove snapper and grouper have kept us busy all week in the bay. Fishing tide changes along the edge of the ships channel near the mouth have produced the best. On the ripping tides of this new-moon phase, I'll move into shallow waters of the bay where we are effectively able to keep bait on the bottom with the least amount of weight.
Tarpon have refused to leave the bay and probably won't until cooler temperatures settle in. Areas around Gadsen Point, Mermaid Point and Rocky Point have been productive.
Snook season opens today and they'll likely be found in all of our area's passes. Though some will still be found along the beaches, the majority in this transitional period will be along the points of islands and the backside of the passes.
Redfish continue to roam the flats. Areas around Mullet Key and Coquina Key have been productive, especially for fly-rodders.
Offshore action has heated up in 100 feet if you can get there. Capt. Mike Masters aboard the Reel Power has worked southwest of Pass-a-Grille and been consistently rewarded with red and gag grouper, large mangos, some scamp and lane snapper. Offering a smorgasbord of sardines and squid fools most of them, then mixing it with live bait will often keep the bite going.
- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.