Winter conditions require a change in fishing tactics. Kingfish and blackfin tuna will stay only as long as there is baitfish in the area and water temperatures remain warmer than 65 degrees. Water temperatures along shallow beaches cool faster than the offshore waters in 60-80 feet. The temperature gauge on your fish finder might not give an adequate reading because the mid range water column can be 10 degrees warmer than at the surface. Using a temperature gauge on a drop line will help you determine where to fish.
Finding 65- to 70-degree water is the key to locating kingfish, blackfin tuna and bait schools. Fish the bait schools using live bait and use downriggers to get your bait to the desired temperature. Last season we were catching kingfish and blackfins well into January. The best time to go offshore is a couple of days after a cold front.
Cold fronts typically run in seven-day cycles and allow 2-3 days of good weather between fronts. Take advantage of the east wind and start your day a little later to allow warming of surface water, which will help you find bait. Four- and five-tide days are the best days to fish. Tide movement gets the fish in a feeding mood. Make any major move during slack tide and always have lines in the water during a solunar major or minor.
_ Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters out of John's Pass, Treasure Island. Call (727) 709-9396.