Trolling for a multitude of species is a great way to take a break from bottom fishing. Spanish mackerel have not been as abundant nearshore as in past years but anglers can catch them in the gulf by targeting areas near passes on an outgoing tide. Inside Tampa Bay, Spanish mackerel are more abundant; troll small spoons, plugs or live baits near most structures. Barracuda are on most artificial reefs; slow-troll live blue runners, Spanish sardines, and hardtails. Hardware trollers should try an assortment of lures including large deep diving plugs, tube lures, and large spoons 30 feet behind planers ranging from a No. 1 to a No. 3. Slow troll live bait as slowly as you can; hardware is more effective between 5.5 and 6 knots. Gag grouper are now open with a minimum overall size of 24 inches. Bottom fishing with live or frozen bait over structure is the norm. Trolling for gags is rare except for a group of anglers targeting the edges of the shipping channel inside of Tampa Bay. An often overlooked tactic is trolling for gags offshore in the gulf. Seek the same depths that bay trollers find successful. Great fish have been produced in 30 to 35 feet near mid-water reefs and reefs themselves since the season opened. Large blue or gold small-lipped plugs, a skirted ballyhoo behind a No. 3 planer, or a large deep diving plug will produce when trolled at 4.5 knots.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.