The Spanish mackerel and kingfish did not arrive around St. Patrick's Day as expected, probably because of the lack of baitfish and low water temperatures. Spanish mackerel are usually more abundant than their larger cousins, kingfish, but this spring they have not arrived in large numbers. Kingfish have been noticeably absent from both nearshore and mid-water artificial reefs, but have been in large numbers in 55- to 60-foot depths. Bottom-fishing for snapper and grouper in those depths can be a challenge, with numerous cutoffs. Kingfish are often thought of as surface feeders but in reality they are just like any other apex predator and are opportunistic feeders. Whenever we experience cutoffs on the bottom we do several things. First, deploy a frozen sardine on a stinger rig with enough line out to ensure it will be close to the bottom. Second, chum heavily with small slivers of sardine to bring the fish higher in the water column. If the current is running strongly the addition of a split shot lightly pinched on the line near the swivel of the stinger may do the trick. The increase of water temperature to the low 70s has brought bottom fishing back to where it was before the winter dip into the 50s. The 60- to 70-foot depths have been producing well.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.