If you are looking for some easy fun fishing in Tampa Bay right now just follow the birds. Pelicans and seagulls are diving on the many bait pods that are scattered throughout the Bay from Egmont Key Island to well north of the Gandy Bridge.
The bait pods are being attacked by a variety of species like Mackerel, Kingfish, Bonito, Ladyfish, Jack crevalle and sharks.
Sometimes a pod of bait will hold a variety of fish but many times a species will be predominant on that pod and if you are catching nothing but ladyfish you will have to move on to the next pod if you are after mackerel.
The birds will give away many of the bait pods but not all of them. Keep a keen eye on the waters surface for bait sprays, surface strikes, boils and free jumpers like mackerel that love to come out of the water.
Mackerel have a decent size top water hit but bonito and Jacks have a much larger strike at the surface which can help you determine what is feeding on that pod of bait.
Look for bait pods throughout Tampa Bay but channels, channel markers, deep drop offs near grass flats, bridges and the artificial reefs will hold plenty of bait with predator fish on their tails.
Artificial's that cast far like spoons, jigs, gotcha plugs and bucktails all work well but it is good to have a variety of lures and in different sizes for when the fish get finicky. Usually they are not but it is good to be prepared for when they are.
A top water lure is always fun to watch the strike but be prepared to lose some tackle since they have extremely sharp teeth.
A fast retrieve is usually the ticket for this type of fishing. Just vary the speed until you start to get hits.
Also vary how long you let the lure sink before you begin reeling and you can add a twitch while reeling if needed to get the strike.
10 pound braid with three feet of 30lb leader tied directly to your lure works well but if you are losing to much tackle add a 8 inch piece of #2 or #3 stainless wire in the copper color. This will help with the cut offs but you will get more hits with just the fluorocarbon leader by itself. This used on a 7' 6" medium 8-17lb action rod with a 4000 style reel works fine.
Try to get upwind/upcurrent of the school so you do not drift into the school but with them to increase the amount of time that you can fish that pod before they sound and go out of site. Be patient they will usually resurface after a few minutes but even if you do not see them or the bait still cast in the direction you saw them moving and you might be pleasantly surprised. When the fish are down let your lure sink longer before you start to retrieve to get it in the strike zone.
Capt. George Hastick
" The Fish Hunter "
Fishing Charters www.fishtampa.com