The fall pelagic season, when we can target Spanish mackerel, kingfish, cobia, bonita, barracuda and several species of sharks, started right on schedule around the second week of October, with anglers reporting great catches as close as 100 yards from shore to 70-foot depths. Baitfish schools could be seen all over, with fish feeding heavily in preparation for their migration south as the water temperatures dropped. Strong easterly winds prevented us from venturing far from shore on several trips, but the fish and bait had gathered near shore seeking protection from the violent seas. Both live baiters and hardware trollers reported great catches for all the migratory species except barracuda, which require cleaner water than was found close to the beaches. Strong north winds muddied the water and put an end to the exceptional fishing. All it takes is two to three days of lighter winds and the sediment will settle out of the water and fishing will return to normal. East winds will cause the baitfish and their predators to return close to shore. West winds will cause them to move offshore to the protection of the near shore artificial reefs such as Madeira Beach and Treasure Island. Bottom fishing, especially for snapper, had turned on for those downsizing tackle and should return as soon as we can venture to the 60- to 80-foot depths.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.