Strong easterly winds have kept us from venturing very far offshore for several weeks, but we have still been able to get out and have great times along with impressive fishing. Schools of Spanish mackerel can be found within a mile of shore along with scattered kingfish. These fish can be targeted in several ways. The most common is to use small spoons and No. 1 planers. Once fish have been located either by blind trolling, returning to hard-bottom areas that have produced before, looking for diving birds or masses of baitfish on the sonar, nonstop action will occur. Switching to hard-bodied lures on light spinning or conventional tackle will provide more sport than using the planer/spoon combination. The once decimated shark fishery has rebounded dramatically because of regulations. For a change of pace we have been switching to catch-and-release fishing for these predators, which have been hanging out near the schools of bait and mackerel. Switching to 20-pound class tackle — the same as used for kingfishing — anchoring and chumming with fresh mackerel chunks will produce savage strikes and drag-screaming runs. Several half-filets of mackerel baits should be deployed, some on balloons suspended from the bottom and some allowed to rest on the bottom with no weight. Circle hooks and wire leader should be used to prevent cutoffs and deep hooking. Most of these fish can be handled from an anchored boat, but the occasional large one will stray into the chum, become hooked and necessitate leaving the anchor attached to a ball and chasing it down before being spooled.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.