It's time to break out the trolling tackle and concentrate on kingfish and their lesser cousins Spanish mackerel. The gulf erupted for us while bottom fishing in 60 feet of water southwest of John's Pass. The bottom fishing on a small ledge adjacent to a larger piece of jumbled rock bottom started producing white grunts, porgies, triggerfish, short red grouper and gags that would have been keepers beginning June 1. There were no strikes produced by a stinger rigged flatline with a frisky Spanish sardine caught with a sabiki rig, but when two bottom rigs were cut off and a kingfish was brought to the surface where it bit through the monofilament leader a change in tactics was called for. The live bait was substituted for a frozen sardine which was cast out and allowed to sink. A long run and battle by a kingfish ensued. Sardines were cut into small pieces and dropped off the transom to join the natural chum caused by the bottom fish expelling their stomach contents on the way to the surface. Two flatlines produced numerous kingfish hookups. A large cobia showed up in the chum line and refused everything presented to him. Live and dead sardines, pinfish and a blue runner all were tried with no success. A 30-inch gag grouper inhaled the blue runner, creating a memorable catch and release moment with the light kingfish tackle. Until next winter we will be deploying two flatlines, one with a frozen sardine and one with a live sardine or hardtail every time the anchor is dropped to bottom fish because every species of pelagic fish in our waters will be attracted to the commotion and chum being expelled.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.