Spring-like conditions have fired up a bite that a couple of weeks ago was practically nonexistent. Water temperatures in the mid 70s have mangrove snapper, grouper, triggerfish and hogfish aggressively chewing again in the 40- to 50-foot range.With the massive amount of bait settling in our area, a few widely scattered reports of kingfish have begun trickling in. A couple of skyrockets have been witnessed off our gulf beaches, and a smoker already was hauled over the rails of the North Skyway fishing pier. Though it might be early to target them, with the amount of bait that has pushed all the way up to the Howard Frankland Bridge you can bet a handful of kings have roamed inside Tampa Bay in pursuit. If your focus is hogfishing, experiment with fiddler crabs. While itís not always the case, on a recent trip our crabs outperformed our shrimp. Not all bait shops offer fiddlers all the time. Because our indigenous ones are becoming harder to come by, many of whatís available are farm-raised and brought in. That means they might be pricier but not much more than regular shrimp. Using crabs also cuts down on the bait-stealers that whittle away your shrimp, often before it hits the bottom.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.