What's hot: Bottom fishing in 90- to 100-foot depths is as hot as the weather. We have not found it necessary to fish any deeper to produce quality catches of snapper, including red, mangrove, yellowtail and lane; red and gag grouper; white grunts and a few scamp. Most of the wary snapper have been caught by downsizing tackle to 2-ounce swivel sinkers, 3-foot, 20-pound test leaders and mandatory circle hooks in the 2/0 to 3/0 size. This combination has been attached to 20-pound test spinning or conventional tackle. Favored baits have been the tail section of frozen sardines and small pinfish hooked just above the anal fin. Hooking the live bait in this manner forces the bait to swim up against the pull of the sinker and puts it in the strike zone for the snapper that hover above structure.
Kingfish abound: This summer's kingfish action continues to amaze. We can target and catch them as if it were late April. Because of the warm water, the majority of fish seek comfort below the thermocline, which is 20 to 30 feet below the surface. Divers have reported that in some areas water temperatures are in the high 70s and low 80s at the bottom. Large spoons and plugs trolled behind No. 2 or No. 3 planers will put the baits in the depths where the fish are. Kingfish will be found at many of the same areas that are targeted during the season such as artificial reefs, wrecks and the shipping channel.
Tip: Stinger-rigged flatlines with live or frozen sardines deployed while bottom fishing have been producing Spanish mackerel, kingfish and bonita on almost every stop for the past few weeks.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 397-8815.