What's hot: The cold fronts and dropping water temperatures have put a stop to trolling for Spanish mackerel, barracuda and kingfish until mid March. There are two species available that produce strong fights even though they must be released.
Redfish: Scattered schools of bull redfish can be found from within 100 yards of shore out to the midwater artificial reefs 10 to 13 miles offshore. These fish are difficult to target because of their tendency to roam. The best way to find them is to look for frigate birds circling to pick up what is left after their feeding frenzy. Troll large plugs or spoons on the perimeter of the school for multiple hookups. And use tackle with large hooks as the force of these large fish will straighten lighter hooks. Redfish are closed in federal waters (more than 9 miles offshore in the gulf) and must be released.
Gag grouper: The other trolling target is gag grouper, though the season is closed. Trolling large, small-lipped plugs behind a No. 3 planer or a large, big-lipped plug in 20- to 30-foot depths over limestone outcroppings will produce trophy-sized gags. Fifty-pound tackle is required to keep these fish from returning to the crevices they inhabit. Though gag season is closed, red grouper remains open, and there are plenty of other bottom species available.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.