What's hot: Seldom do we target kingfish when the water temperature is hovering around 83 degrees. This year is an exception. Though about 10 degrees warmer than they prefer, an enormous amount of bait has settled along our gulf beaches and an early arrival of kings has followed. From Sand Key in Clearwater to St. Pete Beach, reports have been similar, and we've caught some as close as half a mile from shore.
Techniques: We've caught some kings while anchored and chumming, focusing primarily on mackerel. However, marauding packs of sharks got aggressive and helped themselves to about half of what we hooked. Trolling is an alternative, and we've lost less to sharks that way. Being able to run down a screaming kingfish can at times shorten the fight and allow less time for the toothy critters to find it.
Tips: Mangrove snapper fishing inside Tampa Bay has stayed consistent, and the recent new moon got them fired up. Most artificial reefs in the bay seem to hold some, and many of my favorite spots are along the rocky edges and ledges of the ships' channel.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.