Hurricane Hermine left us with poor conditions near shore in the Gulf of Mexico. The Spanish mackerel fishing which was the best of the summer before the storm came to a grinding halt near the beaches. Dirty water and a change of salinity due to the freshwater runoff drove the mackerel from the beaches. We tried the areas that had been producing so well with little or no success and had to venture out at least 9 miles to find favorable conditions. The hard bottom areas north of South County artificial reef are harboring large quantities of Spanish sardines, hardtails and threadfins, which in turn have made that area a prime place to target the mackerel and bonita which are gorging on the baitfish. Spoons and small hard bodied lures trolled behind No. 1 planers or trolling sinkers are the baits of choice. Troll at between 5.5 and 6 knots to cover more ground and present the baits properly. Once a strike occurs, punch the MOB button on the GPS and return to the spot and troll in a figure 8 pattern. Red and gag grouper fishing has been spotty since the hurricane, but will return within a week or two. White grunts and mangrove snapper have been active in 50- to 60-foot depths and are best targeted by downsizing tackle to match the smaller fish. The start of the fall kingfish season is only a month away. It's the time to check guides, drags, make up stinger rigs, redo connections on bait well and bilge pumps and "Be prepared."
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.