What's hot: After the recent closure of the recreational gag grouper season, it's as if they know anglers must let them go. Shallow-water grouper fishing has been about as good as it gets. In and around 40 feet we've had keeper-sized fish come to the surface and whack baits intended for mackerel and kingfish. On a couple of recent trips where we were targeting mangrove snapper, the grouper slammed baits before the snapper had a chance. Never thought of a grouper as being a nuisance. Go figure.
Best of the rest: Kingfish have bunched up in the Egmont shipping channel. We've caught kings around markers 7 and 8, and others at 5 and 6, but the majority have seemingly settled in a bit outside. Kingfish can move overnight, but take a look at markers 3 and 4, then bounce out to the next set if necessary.
Tips: At least until now we've been spared the harsh fronts that cause water temperature to plummet and drive the kings past us to a climate more to their liking. Though it's rare, we've had mild winters that have allowed targeting kings until nearly Christmas. Nearshore gulf waters are going to be muddy the next few days due to the recent westerly blows. When it dies down, the 10- to 15-mile trip to cleaner water may be worthwhile.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.