Bottom fishing and trolling are producing great results right now. It would be difficult to choose between these methods because of the multitude of species available to the average offshore angler.
Kingfish and Spanish mackerel can be caught readily by trolling either live or artificial baits over bait piles as close as 100 yards from shore or out at the 80- to 90-foot depths. It pays to "match the hatch" by fishing live baits caught on a Sabiki rig right in the area you are fishing, or by determining what size bait the fish are feeding on and adjusting the size of your plugs and spoons to match.
Bottom fishing for gag grouper remains strong in the 50- to 60-foot depths. Keeper red grouper (20-inch overall length) have begun to take up residence on their usual summertime haunts on relatively flat limestone areas in the 80- to 90-foot depths.
When targeting grouper, downsizing the tackle will produce white grunts, triggerfish, mangrove snapper and some yellowtail snapper. Deploying a stinger-rigged flat line with either a live or frozen sardine attached while bottom fishing may often result in a limit of kingfish, which are attracted to the activity and chum slick created in the water column.
Keep a lookout for cobia, which may be attracted to the shelter of the anchored boat and may not be visible until you are leaving a spot. Casting a live or frozen bait to them will usually produce a strike.
When trolling for gag grouper, thoughts immediately turn to the edges of the Egmont shipping channel in 30 to 40 feet of water. Similar results can be had by targeting hard-bottom areas offshore in the same depths. Trolling gold-jointed plugs, large curly tailed jigs and Sea Witch/ballyhoo combinations behind a No. 4 planer while moving between bottom spots has recently produced some impressive gags.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.