What's hot: The shorter fall days that cause water temperature to drop have triggered increased feeding activity for pelagic (migratory) and benthic (bottom) fish, which are preparing for the shortage of food in the winter caused by baitfish leaving our waters. All our recent trolling trips have resulted in catches of kingfish, Spanish mackerel, barracuda and bonita on the same day. The key to capturing these species has been to target high-profile structures, such as the Egmont channel marker buoys, offshore wrecks and segments of the mid water artificial, such as the barges on the South County and Indian Shores reefs. The bait and their apex predators are concentrated on this type of structure now.
Grouper time: Red and gag grouper fishing has been better than average for this time of year, probably because of the thermocline that existed throughout the summer and kept many fish nearer to shore. Gag grouper activity in the 50- to 60-foot depths on ledges and their adjacent hard-bottom areas has been consistent. Get the bite started with frozen sardines and squid, and then switch to live baits to entice the larger fish that have been lured into the area. Pinfish are the standby for live grouper baits, but grouper find it hard to resist a live Spanish sardine hooked just above the anal fin.
Tip: On the way out for bottom fishing, sabiki some Spanish sardines or hardtails. Use them for bottom baits and on a stinger-rigged flatline.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at Luckytoo2@aol.com or (727) 397-8815.