What's hot: The kingfish have arrived early. Nearshore water temperatures are in the lower 80s. If we don't have a strong cold front that drops the water temperature into the lower 70s, the fish should stay in our area. A front that drops the water temperature 10 degrees over a few days will push the fish farther south.
The start of kingfish season will have good numbers of breeder redfish and cobia leading the pack. Target the end of the shipping channel and the artificial reefs 5 to 10 miles offshore. When the wind is out of the east, target the hard bottom in the 20-foot zone.
The front of the run will have the larger kingfish. Look for areas that have good numbers of mackerel. A mackerel slow-trolled 10 feet behind the boat will draw strikes from the larger kings.
Baits: When trolling the shipping channel inside the bay use a large ladyfish. Along the beach use a 15- to 20-inch mullet. When fishing farther offshore, troll blue runners, threadfins or Spanish sardines.
Pro tips: Check the Internet to locate areas with a water temperature of 78 degrees. Over the years this has proved to be the magic number for kingfish.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 347-1389.