Before the recent cold front blew through with its high winds and rough seas that prevented us from venturing offshore we were surprised and pleased with trolling and bottom fishing. Spanish mackerel and kingfish were abundant in the 40- to 60-foot depths on high profile structure such as artificial reefs, wrecks and large ledges. It took some moving from spot to spot until the kingfish, mackerel and bonita were found and the use of No. 1 and 2 planers followed by large and small spoons trolled at 6 knots to verify that the fish were on or near the particular structure. Nonstop action occurred from all three species. Bottom fishing for red and gag grouper had been spotty on most days, but the drop in water temperature will force baitfish to migrate south and cause the grouper to be more receptive to the baits we present to them. Catch and release, because of the closed season, red snapper fishing in as shallow as 40 feet of water has provided unexpected thrill from these hard fighting fish especially on light tackle. Red snapper are voracious feeders and will swallow even circle hooks. If any fish is hooked deeply, simply cut the leader as close to the hook as possible and return the fish to the water. The small price of a hook is nothing compared to the future value of a fish. We have caught many healthy fish that have survived well with a hook embedded from being previously caught. The hooks will either rust out over time or be rejected by a normal process.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.