The recent heavy rains and freshwater runoff have had an effect not only near shore but offshore as well. Spanish mackerel had been abundant at every pass entering the gulf. They could be seen at sunrise and sunset crashing into schools of small baitfish.
Trolling small spoons behind No. 1 planers or small white or yellow bucktail jigs on the surface at these times produced nonstop action. The mitigation reefs between Redington Pier and Clearwater were producing fish up to 5 pounds. After the weather settled a return to these areas produced almost no results. Inshore reefs (St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, and Madeira Beach) have almost the same conditions plus an abundance of floating weeds that make trolling difficult.
Conditions dramatically improve at midwater reefs (South County, Rube Allyn and Indian Shores) with clear water and baitfish there. The baitfish are large threadfins, blue runners and pinfish. Barracuda, Spanish mackerel and occasional kingfish have appeared to moved offshore.
Gags are still present on ledges in 60 feet. Patience and live bait are the key to putting a keeper gag in the box. Most structure has its share of keepers, but in summer gags are more reluctant to hit dead baits. Get the bite started with squid and frozen sardines, but make sure a live pinfish, threadfin or squirrelfish is there to tempt the gag. At least 90 feet of water and many stops over Swiss cheese bottom produce keeper reds.
_ Capt. Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at (727) 397-8815 or by e-mail at Luckytoo2aol.com.