What's hot: Huge 4- to 6-pound Spanish mackerel have inundated our beaches, and all you have to do is go about a mile off St. Pete Beach. That's exactly what the Busch family — Joe, Mary and Little Joe — did during its vacation from Kansas City, Mo.
Bait of choice: First stop was to a local bait hole to get the all-important scaled sardine (whitebait) and threadfin herring (greenbacks) that mackerel love. Joe maneuvered me close to the buoy where the minnows were, and with one throw from the 10-foot bait net, we had all the "candy" needed for our charter. West of the Don CeSar hotel, we anchored up in 20 feet of water. Upon arriving, we saw huge schools of greenbacks dancing on the surface.
"That's what I like to see," I told my crew. "When I see bait, the macks are usually here." I had just put the chum block over the side when Mary's drag started screaming. "Just keep your rod tip up and let 'em run," I told her. "Try and get your line back after he stops." Suddenly, Joe was hooked up, then Little Joe.
Tip: The mackerel rig we started with was a No. 3 long shank Aberdeen hook with 30-pound fluorocarbon leader. After losing numerous macks to cutoffs, we switched to a short piece of No. 1 wire with the same hook. Because the macks were so big, they were inhaling our long shank hooks and biting through our monoleader. The wire prevented that.
Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 510-4376.