What's hot: I never thought there would be sustained kingfish action at the end of May, but that is happening offshore. June is nearly here and we have been targeting kings daily instead of waiting for an incidental catch on a deployed flat line while bottom fishing. Historically, most kingfish have left our area by now to continue their migration to the Panhandle, where they spend the summer. Many smaller kingfish are on the near-shore artificial reefs and the larger ones are further offshore.
Tactics: Many fish that we are catching have been below the surface, halfway to the bottom or deeper, picking off stragglers from the huge bait piles of Spanish sardines, hardtails and blue runners. Catching the bait with sabiki rigs using a 3- or 4-ounce sinker to prevent these larger baits from tangling the rig has been relatively easy. Presenting the baits is a little more complex. Downriggers can be used near the bottom. A 2- to 4-ounce trolling weight can be used in the mid range and a nose-hooked bait on the surface. A stinger rig should be used no matter what depth. Initial light drag settings should prevent breakoffs on the strike.
Tips: Always slow troll around bait piles with the lines far enough out so that they will pass through the bait instead of the boat, which tends to separate the bait into smaller schools. These bait piles might not be visible from the surface, so pay attention to your depth finder to locate sub-surface schools.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.