What's hot: Rarely would I consider targeting kingfish in September, but this year may be an exception. Already kings have been caught by slow trollers dragging live baits in the Egmont Ships Channel. Others have been caught off St. Pete Beach, and land-based anglers have hauled in a few at Redington Long Pier. Though the calendar says we're a month away and the water temperature is 10 degrees warmer than preferred, a seemingly bigger-than-usual bunch of kings has shown up along our coast.
Conditions: Each year early season smokers are caught, often within a mile or two off the beach. Light easterly winds projected for the next several days make for ideal conditions. Water clarity is improving daily and bait that is bunched up near shore will get even thicker.
Tips: When hunting early-season kings, I've long liked the 20-foot natural hard bottom area off Sand Key in Clearwater. The Blinds Pass drop and the rubble of the old artificial reefs in 20 feet off Pass-a-Grille and St. Pete Beach is another favorite. Don't overlook the dredge hole that runs from the south end of the public beach on Anna Maria Island nearly to Longboat Key Pass.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.