What's hot: Warm water temperatures are normal for this time of the year, which typically means a slower bottom bite. On some recent trips, we have been changing things up a little. Trolling with lures such as jet heads and rigged ballyhoos offshore will sometimes produce species such as blackfin tuna, mahi-mahi and wahoo.
Target areas: High-profile areas such as wrecks and large breaks are great places to start looking. The deeper these areas, the more consistent the fishing. The Elbow is due west of John's Pass around 70 miles, with depths from 170-200 feet. This area has large pentacles protruding from the sea floor and rising as high as 30 feet. Offshore currents collide with these structures and create an upwelling of water, which pushes the smaller baitfish that inhabit the area toward the surface. The Cloverleaf, which is the southeastern edge of the Middle Grounds, will produce the same scenario. Large coral ledges rise from the bottom 20-40 feet. Before heading to these areas research water temperatures and surface currents on sites such as roffs.com and realtime-navigator.com.
Other targets: Keep a watchful eye for surface structure such as weed lines and other floating debris. These fish will gather under any shade. We were running offshore recently when a small section of plastic fence was spotted about a half-mile away. As soon as we pulled up, three mahi in the 15- to 30-pound class were seen along with many fish in the 3- to 5-pound class. Small jigs work best for the smaller fish; larger bulls and cows prefer live baits.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at fintasticinc.com or (727) 642-3411.