May I Have Another By: Capt. George Hastick

May is a month of choices when it comes to what fish you want to target. Tarpon will invade the Tampa Bay area in full force. Look for them along the beaches, passes and the Skyway Bridge.  One technique that is popular around the Skyway Bridge is to spot lock at the bridge and start cutting pieces of threadfin herring and dropping them overboard at a slow, but steady pace. The scent and flashing of the pieces as they sink will attract the tarpon into your chum line.

Cobia will also be making their appearance, and do not be surprised if you catch one while tarpon fishing. If you want to target cobia look for them around bridge pilings, range markers, channel markers, rock jetties and reefs. You can also find them on the flats, especially under or near large stingrays and manatees. On the flats, they like to stay very close, if not next to them, because they scare bait like crabs, shrimp and fish out of their hiding places, like the grass, as they go over them, which makes easy pickings for the cobia. Be ready with a live bait or lure if you see this extra shadow by the stingray or manatee, and make a good cast. Many times, the cobia will not travel too far away from its host. Saltwater Assassins Artemis shad on a 5/0 to 7/0 jig head or weighted hook would be a good lure to have ready in light and dark colors to cover water color and daily conditions like overcast or sunny.

Snook will be under the mangroves, so good casts are a plus if you want to catch many of these fast-ambushing predators. You can also live chum to try to get them active and out from under the bushes. Scaled sardines, threadfin herring and pinfish are a few good baits that the snook like live or as cut bait. If you’re using a pinfish, you might want to put it under a cork so they cannot swim down into the grass or roots. If you like artificials, a white or crystal color jerkbait is a good option on a 1/8-ounce twistlock hook.

Redfish will be on the flats roaming, but they will also hide from the sun under the mangroves, so don’t be surprised while fishing for snook that you catch some redfish. They also like oyster mounds and, if you can find an area that has both you might be golden. They will hit the same live baits as the snook, but they also love cut baits like pinfish, threadfin, ladyfish and mackerel to name a few. A shad tail in gold pepper on a ¼-ounce jig head or twistlock hook is also a good choice for covering ground and finding redfish.

Trout will be hanging out on the flats near the drop-offs where the water just starts to get a little deeper like 4 to 5 feet or in deeper potholes. They will also be on raised grass flats with deeper water surrounding them. I like a 1/8 to 1/4-ounce jig head with a 4-inch fake shrimp or baitfish imitation like Saltwater Assassins shrimp cocktail or shad tail in white, molting, papa smurph and new penny.

So, get out there and fish. It is a great time “Tight Lines”.