What's hot: The three days before the arrival of Tropical Storm Fay produced some of the best offshore fishing of the summer. Everything targeted seemed aware of the coming rough and dirty water conditions and fed with a frenzy. Tightly packed balls of small baitfish were savagely attacked by schools of Spanish mackerel on every artificial reef at which we stopped. Trolling or casting small gold spoons into the melee produced multiple hookups. After losing several hooked mackerel to barracuda, we "matched the hatch" by rigging mackerel on a stinger rig that produced great catch-photo-and-release action.
Sixty feet of water provided action from both red and gag grouper, white grunts, triggerfish, mangrove snapper and, much to our surprise, several yellowtail snapper. The mangrove snapper and yellowtail were caught by anglers with small-hooked snapper rigs at the beginning of the bite on each stop. On one trip, a school of mahi-mahi appeared while we were bottom fishing. Small pieces of frozen sardine, sliced by a pair of scissors, kept the school near the boat. Using spinning tackle with a small hook baited with the same size slivers as the chum allowed us to boat quite a few.
Looking ahead: It takes a few days after the seas subside for the water to clear and the fish to return to their feeding patterns. Some of the best fishing occurs then because the fish have been unable to feed as readily because of the turbulent conditions.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at Luckytoo2@aol.com or (727) 397-8815.