When the weather settles down in the bay area, spring fishing should shift quickly into high gear. Just before the recent heavy winds arrived and churned the nearshore gulf into a muddy mess, seasonal migratory fish were showing up all over town. For the first time in many years we found a big school of hungry kingfish during February. A handful of kings had been appearing here and there but just before the fronts arrived, they were thick a few miles off Clearwater Beach. The big numbers were found around a mass of baitfish that stretched for a quarter-mile. The bait was a mix of threadfin herring, scaled sardines, cigar minnows and blue runners. Every time we put one on a hook and slow-trolled it outside the perimeter of the school, another 15- to 20-pound king came aboard. Fishing was as good as it gets but only for one day before heavy northwest winds arrived. With the muddying of the gulf, the bait and kings have likely moved out to deeper and cleaner water. Wherever the brown water meets the blue, there will likely be a good concentration of kings. Spanish mackerel had also started to appear when the water was cleaner. Several boats out of Tarpon Springs had banner days catching big mackerel from 3 to 7 pounds. That too was snuffed out when the winds shifted and stirred things up. The mackerel action, like the kingfish bite, is on a temporary hold until the gulf clears up a bit. If the late season fronts stay away, they should be back within a few days.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at [email protected]