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Offshore, trolling heats up

Fishing again is on the upswing after last week's bad weather set back spring conditions. Offshore has been good for pelagic species such as king mackerel and sailfish. Inland, if you can find bait, the flats have been outstanding.

On a recent return trip from the Middlegrounds, the seas turned rough. Rather than take a beating, we decided to troll. We put out a spreader bar armed with several dozen imitation ballyhoo and trolled it at 6 knots. None of the teaser baits had hooks. At different distances behind the spreader, we dragged the same lures with 8/0 hooks, rigged individually.

Not long after our lines were out, the fish started to strike. First came the bonito. Most struck the lures with hooks, but some crashed the spreader, then dropped back and hit the rigged lures.

We saw a kingfish skyrocket and trim the back half off one of the baits with a hook in it. The next two fish we hooked were lost. Both nearly spooled our 30-pound lever-drag reels before coming off. One of the lures came back with a huge triangle bite mark that I believe was caused by a wahoo. The other remained a mystery. That day, Ed Newton landed a 45-pound wahoo near the Mexican Pride, which is in roughly the same depth we were fishing (100 feet). He also was trolling spreader rigs with teasers.

Last week, Dan Hibben on the Pescadora used the same techniques in the same area and landed eight blackfin tuna and a number of big amberjack. One of the amberjack was teased up with a spreader rig and hooked on a fly rod.

Closer to shore, standard live-baiting and hardware fishing for kings should pick back up. Many of the Clearwater charterboats were limiting out on kings and Spanish mackerel while trolling spoons and plugs before the last cold front.

On the flats, it's all about bait. If you can find the whitebait, you can be king. Snook, redfish, trout and even a few cobia have been happy to pounce on the first scaled sardine to drift through their hideouts. The few reports of bait have been near the Sunshine Skyway bridge and sparse catches on the flats north of the Anclote River.

_ Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail TarponEdaol.com.

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