What's hot: A week after completing my eight-week saltwater fishing school, students Tom Johnson, Rick Short, Andy Reeves and Dick Shapiro wanted to spend a morning applying their lessons. East winds, cool mornings and falling water temperatures clued me in that Spanish mackerel should be invading the local passes and beaches from Mullet Key to Sand Key. With that in mind, all four anglers agreed macks should be our target species.
Tactics: We set out right before sunrise, first having to catch bait. In this case, we particularly wanted scaled sardines — more commonly known as whitebait. These small, frisky baits are irresistible to mackerel. I often refer to them as "mackerel candy." To catch them, we chummed a shallow grass flat with a mixture of canned mackerel, cornmeal and fish oil. It took just a few throws of the bait net to have enough candy for the outing.
Results: Anchoring off St. Pete Beach almost in sight of the bikinis, Johnson's reel started to sing, and he was the first to put a hefty mack in the fish box. Then it was Reeves hooking up; then Short, then Shapiro. It was almost nonstop action with double and triple hookups until Short threw a monkey wrench into the mix, hooking something huge we had to chase down. Quickly throwing the anchor ball to get off the hook, we chased Short's fish for more than 30 minutes and almost a mile before we got a look at the creature. It turned out to be a huge shark that eventually cut the line.
Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376.