What's hot: Two holidays have significance for offshore fishing in our area: Columbus Day (Monday) and St. Patrick's Day (March 17). The water temperature and length of days around these holidays usually are such that kingfish and cobia have arrived or will shortly. Strong easterly winds have kept us in port, champing at the bit and eager to try trolling at the usual kingfish spots, such as artificial reefs, wrecks and the Egmont shipping channel.
Tackle: The forerunners of the large migration will arrive in small, scattered schools and are best found by trolling spoons and plugs behind Nos. 1 through 3 planers at 6 knots to determine at what depth the fish are feeding. Use of a No. 3 planer and a broken-backed, small-lipped gold plug will target gag grouper and kingfish in depths around 30 feet. Some of the newer deep-diving, large-lipped plugs in blue or gold have also proved to be effective in these depths.
Tip: Good binoculars have been an invaluable safety tool for the past week because of the strong winds we have encountered. When the wind is out of the east, the gulf can be deceptively calm nearshore and out to a few miles. Looking at the horizon with binoculars allows one to get a perspective as to what conditions really are like.
Reminder: Check drags, guides and line. The season is almost here, and tackle shops will be swamped with those seeking last-minute repairs.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.