Warmer conditions: Water temperatures have risen by about 5 degrees over the past two weeks, creating bigger appetites. Reports of baitfish being caught have started to trickle in from various locations.
Bait sources: A few offshore anglers have found schools of Spanish sardines and threadfin herring about 5 miles out from some passes. They are inconsistent, but it's a good sign. Even inshore guides have found whitebait along beaches and grass flats.
Bait bonus: Before the bigger fish arrive, water temperatures must rise a few more degrees; 68 is the magic number. Eventually, we will see large migrations of kingfish around these baitfish. They'll be hungry after traveling hundreds of miles. Normally, they stay for just a few days. By the end of March, many stay longer, especially if a major food source is nearby. This is why artificial reefs are so consistent with kingfish each spring and fall: the combination of warmer water and lots of baitfish settling on structures.
Keep watch: Look for tripletail floating at the surface near debris and crab trap buoys. These rare, hard-fighting fish also migrate along our coast in February. Their favorite food is live shrimp.
Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 439-2628 or visit jawstoo.com.