INSHORE: North of Clearwater, the trout are staying close to the spoil islands. Look for redfish around Caladesi Island and the potholes close to land. This area is known for holding large trout, but most anglers are reporting fewer trout than in years past. Release trout of more than 20 inches, to give the species a chance to restock.
In lower Tampa Bay, the trout are running in the 12- to 20-inch class. Most are over grass piles that are 3 to 4 feet deep. A jig worked close to the bottom will draw the most strikes. The redfish move onto the flats during the incoming tide, but they don't seem to be in the same area two days in a row. Scout the normal redfish hangouts first. If you do locate a school, anchor and wait until the reds start to feed.
OFFSHORE: The big buzz is the kingfish run that has worked its way north to Sarasota. Look for the fish to move into our area in the next few weeks.
Troll artificial rigs to locate the kings, targeting artificial reefs that are 5 to 10 miles offshore. Use a No. 2 planer rigged with 30 feet of 30-pound monofilament and a silver or gold spoon. Use a foot of wire leader in front of the spoon to reduce cutoffs. Using mono as a leader up to the spoon will produce more strikes, but the risk of losing spoons goes up. Troll the reefs that have bait schools visible on the surface. When a productive reef is located, try fishing the whole water column. Use a No. 3 planer to run deep, a No. 2 for the middle and a flat line on the surface. When one of these rigs starts to outproduce the others, switch all the rods to that depth.
Along with the kingfish, look forward to breeder redfish, bonita and mackerel. Large schools of baitfish will move into the area, starting some great fishing that should last for a few months. Mangrove snapper will be in 60 to 90 feet of water and amberjack are over wrecks in 120 feet and deeper.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 347-1389.