What's hot: Large Spanish mackerel have been active off our beaches. Natural hard-bottom areas and scattered artificial reefs are excellent places to begin. Anchor over the structures and chum to draw the fish to the boat, where they can be caught with live bait on light tackle. Both scaled sardines and threadfin herring will work when fished on a short section of No. 2 or No. 3 wire and a No. 1 hook.
Technique: Trolling is a good way to find productive hard bottom. Focus on areas with bird activity and visible bait schools on the water's surface. Watching the bottom sonar will reveal details of the hard bottom — small chunky rocks, sea fans, soft corals and other natural growth. Also look for concentrations of crab traps that have been set with the start of stone crab season.
Tips: Larger king mackerel can also be caught in the same areas using the same baits and techniques. When king mackerel hit, be prepared to move quickly to chase them, because they are capable of running more than 100 yards of line off the spool in what seems like seconds.
Brent Gaskill runs Summer Vacation Charters out of the St. Petersburg area and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (727)510-1009.