What's hot: The recent series of cold fronts have kept us in port on many days, but the calm days in between have produced banner fishing. Trolling has consistently provided great catch-and-release gag grouper in 30- to 40-foot depths. The keys: Large blue or gold small-lipped plugs or large shad-tailed jigs 30 feet behind a No. 3 planer and large-lipped, deep-diving plugs tied directly to the main line. White grunts, sea bass, mangrove snapper and triggerfish have also been targets. The largest of these species have been a little farther offshore, at 50-60 feet. Two hook snapper rigs with a 3- to 4-ounce sinker on the bottom, baited with strips of squid, have produced non-stop action on light tackle.
Tips: A stinger rigged flatline with a frozen sardine has been producing kingfish and large Spanish mackerel and this will only get better as the water warms. St. Patrick's Day is the usual start of the spring Spanish mackerel, kingfish and cobia seasons. These early fish tend to be on artificial reefs and wrecks where baitfish concentrate, so focus both live bait and hardware trolling efforts there.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.