When asked in the past when is the best time to fish in the spring, I would answer quickly: the entire month of April and the first two weeks of May. This was predicated on water temperatures being in the mid to high 70s, providing the optimum conditions for baitfish to arrive along with their predators, kingfish, Spanish mackerel, bonita and barracuda. This year I have to change my response to the last two weeks of April and the entire month of May. Water temperatures dropped into the 50s a few months ago and have slowly risen, up to 74 degrees offshore on Friday. Spanish sardines, scad, blue runners and threadfins can be found on the artificial reefs and high-profile wrecks and ledges. Spanish mackerel we've been catching have been above-average size, often mixed in with schools of kingfish in the 6- to 12-pound class, which now are more abundant than mackerel. Slow trolling sabiki-caught bait in the area targeted has produced multiple hookups and drag-screaming runs when targeting these fish on 10- to 12-pound spinning tackle. Bottom fishing has come into its own, with red grouper, white grunts, Lane and mangrove snapper being the targets of choice in 60 to 65 feet. Deploy two stinger-rigged flatlines while bottom fishing, one with a live bait such as a Spanish sardine or hardtail and another with a frozen sardine so the entire water column is covered when kingfish, which are attracted to the activity and chum in the water, show up.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.