Fuel prices have restricted many anglers from enjoying some of the best offshore action of the year. We have not noticed too many other fishing boats farther out than 10 miles. The commercial shrimp boats have even been absent. This has made the blackfin tuna trips a bit tough, since they usually travel behind these boats.
If you're willing to pay for the fuel, we've been catching large gag groupers and red grouper in 80-plus feet of water. If you travel west from the 75-foot mark, the red grouper become quite impressive in size, around 15-plus pounds.
Amberjack are congregated over most offshore wrecks in 100 feet and deeper. They are often accompanied by other pelagic species. Some of our biggest kingfish are caught around these spots. This action can be hit and miss at times. Be persistent and throw free-lined bait off the back of the boat. Eventually a big one will find you.
Last week, we caught a giant cobia on a free-lined pinfish in 85 feet of water west of Clearwater. A few days before, we hooked a big blackfin tuna. In a few weeks, expect to find small dolphin fish swimming around the boat.
Bait schools are seemingly everywhere in the gulf. Pilchards, also referred to as scaled sardines, have been schooling within a mile of shore. A few miles farther out are large schools of threadfin herring. Along the outskirts of these schools, blue runners are easily caught on Sabiki rigs. About 15 miles from shore, giant schools of Spanish sardines and cigar minnows can be found over the sandy bottom. The light color of the sand gives the bait schools a sense of security as they try to blend in. Small kingfish have been following the bait schools for weeks and are easy to catch by simply tossing out a free-lined bait.
Inshore, large schools of tarpon are moving along the beaches. This annual migration will only get better as we enter June. There will also be some big sharks around, since they follow the tarpon migration. We have already landed five bull sharks this month, all weighing more than 200 pounds. A fresh bonito is nearly irresistible.
Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.jaws