What's hot: Recently, we went to the Madeira Beach artificial reef, Treasure Island reef and South County reef. Only South County has a marker. Scattered around there are three barges, a 110-year-old tugboat, the Orange and piles of concrete rubble. Some piles are only 2-5 feet high and replicate the patch reefs and ledges to attract red, gag and goliath grouper, snapper and grunts. Some piles are 15 feet high and attract swarms of baitfish we have trolled and bottom fished. After a few disappointing trips to 90 feet and deeper, we returned to 60 feet and found great bottom fishing. There, we concentrated our efforts on red and gag grouper.
Tactics: No matter where you are, one artificial reef will be close to you. Anglers leaving John's Pass can chase baitfish and their apex predators that include barracuda, Spanish mackerel, kingfish, cobia and sharks. Because of the nature of the structure, we usually troll this area with a combination of different sized planers and spoons or deep-diving plugs to target the entire water column.
Tip: The Pinellas County Reef Program has placed large amounts of the Bayway Bridge on county reefs. Running your fish finder and marking the GPS coordinates will provide locations for trolling patterns and future areas to target while live baiting kingfish and Spanish mackerel.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.