What's hot: Before the high wind and rough seas arrived, offshore fishing was good. Reports of kingfish more than 20 pounds were coming from the shipping channel north to Clearwater. Some larger fish will remain in our area for the summer and can be caught by deploying stinger-rigged flat lines while bottom fishing for red and gag grouper.
Tackle: Larger red grouper have taken up on the hard-bottom areas in 90 to 100 feet along with yellowtail and lane snapper. The smaller snapper usually feed aggressively as soon as baits drop. It is difficult to catch them with the usual 5/0 or larger circle hooks used for grouper. Instead, drop a 1/0 two-hook snapper rig with pieces of squid and sardines while using light spinning tackle. A few gag grouper will be mixed with the reds on the hard bottom, but to target gags look for ledges in the same depths. Start with the frozen baits to get the bite started, then switch to live baits to get the larger gags to eat. Squirrelfish, Spanish sardines and small blue runners, with the tails cut off to slow them, make excellent baits.
Tips: Schools of small mahi-mahi have begun to show under the boat while anchored for bottom fishing. Keep a lightweight spinning rod rigged with a 2/0 long-shank hook ready. Chum with slivers of sardine. Once they start feeding, deploy a sliver of sardine on that rod and hold on.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at Luckytoo2@aol.com or (727) 397-8815.