What's hot: Spanish mackerel are increasing daily both in numbers and size. They are being caught near any pass entrance to the gulf in sizes ranging from shorter than legal (12 inches fork length) to more than 24 inches. Try trolling hardware (spoons and plugs) or slow-trolling nose-hooked whitebaits. Another option is to anchor and chum with slivers of sardines and a chum bag until the fish become visible in the slick. Then use live baits or cast small spoons or plugs. Larger mackerel have invaded the artificial reefs 5 to 7 miles offshore along with scattered kingfish. South County, Indian Shores, and the Rube Allyn reefs, along with the markers at the west end of the Egmont channel, are beginning to hold large quantities of bait along with Spanish mackerel, kingfish and bonita. All of these areas are considered "one-stop spots" because baits can be caught on Sabiki rigs and deployed instantly.
What's next: The recreational gag grouper season opens in the gulf Wednesday, and it will not be necessary to venture deeper than 60-foot depths to produce keepers (22 inches overall length). During the two-month closure we caught, photographed and released numerous fish in the traditional winter grouper areas.
Tip: Beginning Wednesday, target both gag grouper and kingfish in the same areas. Both fish will be found over the same the hard rocky bottom.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.