Left waiting: For many years I wrote that the spring kingfish season started around St. Patrick's Day (March 17). This year will most certainly be an exception because of the unusually cold water in the gulf. Historically, some schools of baitfish show up in our area when the water reaches 68 degrees. And when the "magic" 72 to 76 shows, shoals of baitfish and their attendant predators, such as kingfish, Spanish mackerel, cobia, bonito and barracuda, can be found around all types of structure.
So what's hot? Whenever the weather allows us offshore, bottom fishing has been outstanding. It has not been necessary to travel farther than 60-foot depths to enjoy almost nonstop action from porgies, white grunts, triggerfish and mangrove snapper. The key to success is to downsize tackle to 20-pound class and to use 2/0 or 3/0 circle hooks on smaller baits. Both red and gag grouper (season closed until April 1) provide rod-bending thrills when caught on this light tackle and must be released carefully. This year the bottom fish have acclimated to the colder-than-usual water temperature and are not lethargic or hesitant to attack baits as they have been in the past.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.