What's hot: Strong west winds with accompanying thunderstorms kept us in port for several days, but when we were able to venture offshore, fishing continued to be spectacular for both bottom and surface dwellers. Some keeper gag grouper still remain in the 40- to 50-foot depths along with many undersized red grouper in the 16- to 18-inch range. High water temperature and the offshore thermocline have caused many of the fish that were in shallower water to move to a more comfortable zone in the 90- to 120-foot zone. More keeper red and gag grouper and red snapper will be found there.
Another option: Normally at this time of the year Spanish mackerel are crashing schools of bait within 100 yards of the beach near any inlet, on any of the artificial reefs, and along the shipping channel from Egmont Key out to markers 9 and 10. So far this summer mackerel fishing has been spotty at best, but the king mackerel have helped fill the gap. On July 4, Tim Higham and his party boated kingfish that ranged from 20 inches (released because of the 24-inch minimum size) to a monster that was just under 40 pounds. The smaller fish were caught trolling spoons near the Whistler buoy, and the larger fish were all caught using frozen Spanish sardines while bottom fishing. It has been interesting to note that larger kingfish are being caught with dead frozen sardines deployed on a stinger rig while smaller fish have been striking the live sardines and hard tails.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.