What's hot: The big decision prior to each trip offshore before the cold fronts blew through was what species to target. Spanish mackerel were abundant near every inlet emptying into the gulf. Until last weekend baitfish were very small, and the use of a 00 or 0 spoon was mandated. Large baitfish arrived over the weekend and trying different spoon sizes was necessary to "match the hatch."
Kingfish arrived in scattered schools. Some were in the usual spots such as the midwater artificial reefs, wrecks and the markers at the western end of the shipping channel. Cobia were spotted at many of those locations but hesitated to take anything offered. Clear water allowed us to see barracuda over several high-profile structures. Historically, they show up about a week or two before the kingfish arrive.
Bottom fishing is outstanding in the 40- to 60-foot depths. Because of the grouper closure, we've been directing efforts toward light-tackle white grunt, triggerfish, sea bass, porgy and triggerfish. Catch-photo-and-release grouper have been a welcome addition, but beginning Friday, some will end up in the fish box. Red grouper will be open in state and federal waters. Gag grouper will be open only in state waters, up to 9 miles offshore.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at Luckytoo2@aol.com or (727) 397-8815.