For years I've claimed the traditional day for the start of fall trolling season is Oct. 10 (Columbus Day). This year is no exception, even with the gulf stirred up by hurricanes. Spanish mackerel and bonita are here in numbers along with their apex predator, barracuda. We've been starting our combined trolling and bottom-fishing trips on any of the nearshore artificial reefs such as St. Pete Beach or Treasure Island by trolling small spoons behind No. 1 planers or live bait caught on site with sabikis. All of our artificial reefs were placed on sandy bottoms. The fish will be concentrated on the high-profile structure built on them. Using sonar or visually spotting feeding fish or bait on the surface, then marking the spot on a GPS enables you to keep your baits in the strike zone. Materials on the nearshore reefs are scattered in a rough rectangle, 2,000 feet running north and south by 300 feet running east and west. The midwater reef structure such as South County and Indian Shores can be found in a quarter-mile square around the published location for a particular reef. Bottom fishing for grouper has remained spotty, but snapper fishing has more than filled the gap for those who have downsized tackle. Lane, yellowtail, vermillion and mangrove snapper have been providing for a colorful tasty box of fish in the 70 foot depths.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.