What's hot: The anticipated arrival of kingfish has materialized, and this week could produce the numbers we're accustomed to. Better weather, an influx of bait schools and water temperature flirting with the 70s provided the spark. Reports of caught kings have come from the Dubuai Pier, Skyway piers, Betty Rose wreck and Egmont Channel. Further evidence came out of Saturday's tournament in Sarasota. A 38.9-pounder won, and a 31.5-pounder rounded out the leaderboard. Though many were caught a bit south, at least one was landed near the Skyway bridge.
Best of the rest: Mackerel have begun showing up everywhere. I observed dozens caught on the Skyway piers. Some were caught with live bait now abundant along the structures. Others were fooled by "Gotcha Plugs," or silver spoons cast and retrieved quickly. Fast-trolled hardware is an effective way to locate fish on the move, and slow-trolled live bait is hard to beat once you find them. Anchoring and chumming them to the boat increase the odds of multiple hookups. Grouper, snapper and sheepshead continue to roam the edges of the ship channel and chew best around the tide changes.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.