Hard northeast winds have been keeping long offshore runs to a minimum for a while. But this same wind pattern has made fishing close to shore much better. Baitfish tend to swim into moving water, no matter if the water is moving because of current or the wind. This pattern has threadfin herring, small blue runners and cigar minnows covering just about every strip of hard bottom from the beach out to about 20 feet. For kingfish, finding the bait is key. Just because you have caught kingfish in a certain spot in the past does not mean they will be there now. Bait concentrations are on the move every day, and if you find them on even sand bottom, there are sure to be some big kings nearby. This past week we were lucky enough to find a huge school of bait on sand bottom just south of markers 9 and 10 in the shipping channel. Feeding on these baits we encountered cobia, both king and Spanish mackerel, sharks and bonito. Every bait that went out was smashed the second it hit the water. The migration of gag grouper is a bit behind this year because of warmer than normal water temperatures. These fish are heading down our way, but they will need at least two good cold fronts to push them into our area. Look for them to start showing up in good numbers in the 50- to 60-foot depths west of Clearwater first. Live baits such as pinfish, grunts and squirrelfish will lead to banner catches until we start seeing water temperatures dipping into the 60s.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.