After this past weekend's hazardous boating conditions, this week's forecast holds promise for improvement. However, noticeable changes are likely. Kingfish, which have lingered far longer than usual, might finally have reason to push to the south seeking warmer climate. Baitfish, which until now had been relatively easy to gather, might become more of a challenge. Muddied water from harsh winds and plummeting water temperature tends to scatter bait schools, particularly those on the flats. Anchoring and chumming what's left of them to you might be a more effective method when cast-netting live baits. When winds lighten and seas calm, offshore fishing will heat back up. Hogfish will be available to those bumping the bottom with 12- to 20-pound test spinning tackle using shrimp, fiddlers or sand fleas. Fish those same areas of hard bottom where you've caught grunts, mangos and grouper in the past. Lately some have produced beginning in 35 feet. For those looking to get slammed to the gunwales and little regard for your lower back, amberjack are willing to oblige. This time of year, we've sometimes found them on wrecks and reefs as shallow as 60 feet. A bigger bait often entices the bigger jacks. If blue runners are hard to come by, a large pinfish or mullet will not be ignored.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.