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When I called PORTS (toll-free 1-866-827-6787) at 5 a.m. Friday, the sensors at the Sunshine Skyway bridge said the winds were from the east at 17 knots, gusting to 20. Winds were the same at 7, so I walked to the beach to scan the horizon with a pair of binoculars. East winds can fool you with calm seas near shore in the lee. The decision to leave port was made because the seas were rolling in a swell not a chop and birds could be seen diving within a mile of the sea buoy.

First stop was shortly after leaving John's Pass to troll for whatever was feeding as indicated by the birds. As soon as the first rod with a No. 1 planer and small gold spoon was deployed it was "fish on." A nice Spanish mackerel could not resist the gold flash. Ten more and two bonita were caught before the school vanished.

The South County Reef was the next stop and the mackerel action continued with fewer but larger fish. The afternoon forecast called for increasing winds so the decision was made to bottom fish no deeper than 50 feet. A piece of squid and a piece of sardine hooked many large white grunts, numerous short red and gag grouper and a keeper gag and red.

Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at (727) 397-8815 or by e-mail at