Blue water fishing is at its summer peak and will continue through September. Marlin, tuna, wahoo and dolphin are the targeted fish when we run 80 miles offshore, and trolling is the best technique for locating and catching them. The key is having your lines in the water 50 to 60 miles offshore at sunrise. Most of our trips start at 3 a.m. and conclude at sunset.
Tuna and wahoo often feed at first light and early in the morning. Look for weed lines, tide rips or floating debris to troll near. Most weed lines and tide rips hold fish. We also use infrared satellite photos of the Gulf of Mexico to determine water temperature differences and to find the Loop Current. The Loop Current is to the Gulf of Mexico what the Gulf Stream is to the Atlantic Ocean. The Loop Current changes locations and can be as close as 70 miles or at times 200 miles from our coast. Your trolling speed should be 7.5 to 9 knots.
We use tuna and wahoo lures early in the morning. Dark-colored skirts _ red and black or purple and black _ work best for tuna and wahoo. A red or purple spoon also works well. When we change to dolphin and sailfish lures at midmorning, yellow-and-green and pink-and-blue skirted lures work best. We use 50-pound terminal class tackle and run five lines most of the time.
Blue water fishing is exciting, but you must be self-sufficient when you are 80 miles offshore. Leave a float plan, and if you don't want to go offshore alone, sign up for a blue water tournament (you will be offshore with many other boats).
Grouper and snapper fishing has been steady, but most charter boats have been working hard to get fish. Eighty feet of water and deeper has been the most productive depths, and small ledges and cheese-rock, flat hard bottom have been the best for red grouper. Frozen sardines and squid have been our top baits. If you are not getting keeper grouper, try using lighter tackle and smaller hooks.
The Gandy and Courtney Campbell bridges are holding good numbers of pompano. Fiddler crabs and chumming seem to be the ticket. Capt. Bill Schuster of Sigma Marine reports that blacktip sharks and redfish are feeding around Honeymoon Island and near mangroves at the Anclote River.
_ Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters the Enterprise out of Kingfish Wharf, Treasure Island. Call (727) 430-3474.