What's hot: Strong winds and high seas have kept us in port. Even though surface water temperatures have dropped enough to put away the Spanish mackerel, kingfish and barracuda tackle, we will troll in hopes they have not dropped through the entire water column to drive them south. Pelagic fish concentrate around artificial reefs, wrecks, channel markers and mitigation piles on the pipeline after a storm. While most baitfish have left for warmer climates, those that remain also seek those structures.
Tackle: Trolling spoons and plugs behind No. 2 and No. 3 planers lets us cover more area and target the comfort depths fish now seek. Live baits such as blue runners, Spanish sardines and hardtails can be slow-trolled deep with a downrigger or leads of 4-6 ounces. Bottom fishing for white grunts, red and gag grouper and mangrove snapper will provide action in 40-60 feet when the water clears. Gag grouper season is closed, so it's catch, photo and release.
Tip: Cold water slows the metabolism of fish, so they are not eager to chase baits. Start each stop with cut frozen sardines and squid until the feeding frenzy begins before switching to live bait.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.