What's hot: St. Patrick's Day (Saturday) and Columbus Day (Oct. 10) are the holidays that signify the usual start of the spring and fall kingfish runs. The 2011 fall run was disappointing for Tampa Bay anglers. The spring season is a little ahead of schedule because of the mild winter and the almost-perfect water temperatures in our area. Kingfish, Spanish mackerel and bonito can be found in schools of various sizes from within 100 yards of shore near any of the passes out to the 10 Fathom depths. We recently fished for mackerel using No. 1 planers and No. 1 spoons just outside the swim buoys between John's Pass and Pass-a-Grille.
Tip: There are many juvenile kingfish mixed in with the Spanish mackerel. Spanish mackerel must be 12 inches, fork length, for harvest. King mackerel must be 24 inches, fork length.
The 40- and 60-foot depths have proved productive for kingfish, while both trolling No. 1 and No. 2 planers with larger spoons or slow-trolling with live sardines or hard tails. On a recent trip, the kingfish almost became a nuisance while bottom fishing. A stinger-rigged flat line with a dead sardine retrieved with an inshore "walk the dog" action resulted in multiple hookups.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.