What's hot: Spanish mackerel continues to be almost a sure thing on a daily basis in the gulf. They are concentrated near the mouth of nearly every pass on the outgoing tide. After the tide change, they can be found within a mile of the shore by watching for diving birds. Monday, we put out No. 1 planers and small gold spoons in the no-wake zone before entering the gulf through John's Pass and were rewarded with Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jacks.
We were supposed to venture offshore but found it hard to leave the school of large mackerel concentrated between the bridge and first set of markers. After a dozen fish were iced in the box, we headed to the Treasure Island reef, where every large concrete pile held baitfish, Spanish mackerel, undersized kingfish and barracuda. The barracuda put on aerial displays, jumping clear of the water and dazzling us with drag-screaming runs like large kingfish.
What's not: Stopping on mid water reefs such as the South County proved to be disappointing. Trolling both live and artificial baits resulted in little more than empty holes being dragged in the water.
Tactics: There has been no need to venture past the 65-foot depths to target red grouper, white grunts and mangrove snapper. Take squid, frozen sardines, live pinfish and Sabiki up some live sardines and hardtails. The grouper will bite one particular bait on one day and not even look at the same bait in the same area one day later.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.