What's hot: With water temperatures climbing daily we had almost given up on kingfish, resigning ourselves to catching them intermittently while targeting red grouper and other benthic species. But that was erroneous; this past week, limit catches (two per person per day, 24-inch fork limit) were the norm almost every day. The usual high profile structures that hold bait — artificial reefs, wrecks and shipping channel buoys — were devoid of kingfish and had very few Spanish mackerel. Kingfish were on many of the bait piles that we fished in the 60-foot depths.
Techniques: Using sabikis to catch fresh live bait on site was critical to success. A sure indicator that larger predators were present was that we'd bring up half of a baitfish or had the rig cut off. Slow trolling stinger-rigged fresh baits on the surface produced many strikes. When we were sure the fish were there because of the cut-off the addition of a one- to four-ounce trolling lead six to eight feet of leader produced strikes. Bottom fishing at this depth remained consistent with red grouper, catch-and-release gags, trigger fish and white grunts striking live and frozen baits.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at Luckytoo2@aol.com or (727) 397-8815.