What's hot: Along with the weather, trolling and bottom fishing are on fire right now. Look for Spanish mackerel, bonita, barracuda and — surprising for this time of year — enough kingfish to make targeting them worth your while.
What else: Gag grouper season in the bay area opens Monday. The pelagic species can be targeted on any of the artificial reefs by trolling hardware — spoons, plugs and planers — or slow-trolling live bait caught on site with a Sabiki rigs. Trolling for gags is best done with large, small-lipped plugs or curly tailed jigs behind a No. 3 planer or a large "stretch" type of plug. Color seems to make a difference with gold or blue plugs being our choice. The gags are still inhabiting the areas we consider "winter" depths of 25-40 feet.
Still more: Red grouper are abundant in 60-80 feet over the flat limestone areas referred to as "swiss cheese" bottom because it does not show relief and large and small holes dot the rocks. Squid and frozen sardines work well, but it is always worthwhile to have live baits when the bite slows. This often indicates larger fish have moved in and a large live bait might trigger their bite.
Hint: Troll at 6 knots for the pelagic species and reduce to 4.5 when targeting gags.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.