What's hot: Many indicators suggest a possible early start to the spring kingfish run. Water temperatures dipping in and out of the preferred 70-degree range and fairly ample bait are two main ingredients. Increasing reports of scattered catches is pretty convincing confirmation. Already, land-based anglers on the Skyway and Redington piers have hauled in kings. Several kings have been caught by those ballooning or fly-lining live baits out the back of the boat on hard bottom areas in 35-45 feet west of St. Pete Beach. Widespread reports from Egmont Channel are also evidence of early arrivals.
Conditions: After a windy weekend, nearshore gulf waters have muddied and bait schools have scattered. Easterly winds projected this week will let gulf water clear; strong tides surrounding Thursday's full moon will aid the flushing process.
What's ahead: When conditions are favorable, I've long liked the 20-foot depths of the Clearwater hard bottom off Sand Key or the Blind Pass drop off St. Pete Beach when targeting early spring kings. If the water's not clean or there are no bait schools to hold them, I often opt for the Egmont channel. Often I start at Markers 5 & 6 then work out if necessary.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.