Even though water temperatures have dropped below 70 degrees there are still plenty of Spanish mackerel, kingfish, and bonita around to keep both live bait and hardware trollers busy. Many large kingfish are still patrolling the waters along the coast within a mile of the shoreline. Target these solitary fish by either slow trolling large live baits such as mullet, mackerel or ladyfish with stinger rigs or anchoring and employing a chum bag along with small slices of Spanish sardines and the same large baits. Targeting these large fish requires a lot of patience waiting for a strike. Spanish mackerel can also be caught in the same areas by trolling No. 1 planers and small spoons. The smaller "schoolie" kingfish and large mackerel are best targeted on the midwinter artificial reefs and surrounding hard bottom areas such as South County, Indian Shores and Veteran's. Once a strike occurs, hit the MOB button on your GPS and return to the same spot. Kingfish seem to be schooled up in small groups on hard bottom or reef structure. Red and gag grouper, white grunts, mangrove and Lane snapper have been biting best in 45- to 65-foot depths, frozen sardines and squid being the bait of choice. We carry live pinfish on every trip and have not had much success with the live bait. This will change as soon as the baitfish in our area migrate south and pinfish will often trigger a strike after the bite slows down on the frozen bait.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.