What's hot: We were hoping the spring kingfish season that started late would last longer than usual. Although there are scattered schools near the artificial reefs, wrecks and shipping channel, the majority of the kingfish appear to have continued their migration to the Panhandle. A recent trip to Markers 1, 2, 3 and 4 and the Whistler was disappointing. There was no bait to be sabiki up and the lack of bait resulted in no fish to be had, even trolling hardware. Whenever we leave the dock, the bait cooler has an ample supply of frozen sardines and squid so we can bottom fish as a backup. The hard bottom 2-3 miles north of the Whistler produced a variety of reef fish that included catch-and-release gag grouper, undersize and keeper red grouper, white grunts, mangrove snapper and a surprising amount of undersize yellowtail snapper caught on the 2 hook grunt rigs. The 60-65 foot depths are key to nonstop bottom fishing activity. Keeper red grouper can be readily found here using frozen and live baits. A live or dead sardine on a stinger rig will result in a few kingfish strikes while bottom fishing. White grunts are in prespawn mode in these depths and some in the 15-17 inch range are being caught.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.