What's hot: Though water temperatures off northern Pinellas and Pasco counties are still chilly, migratory species like mackerel and bonito are starting to show up just offshore. These species usually show up in the spring as the Gulf hits the high 60s, but it seems to be starting early this year. Schools of Spanish mackerel have been as far north as Hudson and just about everywhere south of that. Bonito are off the beaches of Dunedin and down to Tampa Bay. Even kingfish are appearing. We hooked several kings this week in 65 feet off Tarpon Springs. All this would not be unusual in March except that it is taking place in cold, dirty water.
Tips: When sea conditions allow, cast jigs or drift live sardines a mile or two off the beach, even if the water seems too dirty for mackerel. The fish have been there, in turbid conditions that would not normally hold them. Scented soft plastic jigs work in poor visibility. Another great mackerel trick is to cut the back and belly off a scaled sardine, leaving a slender strip with the tail on it. Float this bait under a bobber, on a long shank hook, which provides lots of scent and the narrow shape they seem to prefer.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at (727) 944-3474.