What's hot: Last week's cold front slowed a kingfish and mackerel bite that had been on fire. Northwest winds scattered bait schools that had settled along the swash channel along gulf beaches and muddied nearshore waters. When the conditions improve, look for the action to heat up. Returning to normal easterly winds will allow water to clear and bait schools to gang back up. Instinctively, kingfish and mackerel will be drawn back to the rocky bottom fish havens in 20 feet, even less along Sand Key, Indian Rocks, Redington, Blinds Pass and St. Pete Beach. Trips earlier last week in 20 feet off Pass-a-Grille resulted in outstanding catches of mackerel up to 4 pounds and a few kingfish pushing 20.
Bait selections: Mackerel preferred the 3-inch whitebait we fly-lined on 12-pound spin tackle while live chumming endlessly. Kingfish opted for the full-blown greenbacks we suspended beneath balloons to ensure they were held off the bottom.
Bonus by-catches: Cooling water has drawn grouper into shallower waters, and we've gotten in on the action in 20 feet. Dropping a grouper rod with our largest baits has resulted in a handful of keeper gags on our last couple of king and mackerel fishing trips.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 321-2142