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Kings, cobia set to spring into big action

Offshore fishing has been slow. Randy Comans and Craig Lahr ran 80 miles offshore to the Elbow and had only a few bites.

We experienced the same Monday in 60 to 95 feet. We caught two 12-inch red grouper but no keepers. The good news is that fishing should improve this week with four-tide days. I received reports of two anglers catching nice gags in 45 feet west of John's Pass.

The live bait supply is improving. We saw large schools over the Treasure Island Reef, South County Reef and in 95 feet.

Spring is around the corner and with the recent warm weather, the gulf is warming. Expect to see the spring migration of kingfish, Spanish mackerels, cobia and blackfin tuna in the next few weeks. The key to spring fishing is live bait. When it shows up, predators are close behind. Every spring we get the opportunity to catch sailfish. A slow-trolled Spanish sardine makes great kingfish bait but it also entices an occasional sail.

The shrimp fleet is working its way north and will be in our area for about six weeks. With the fleets come some of the best blackfin tuna fishing around. Fish the shrimpers that are anchored and culling their catch. Live Spanish sardines and squirrelfish are great tuna baits. Free-line your live bait off the transom to the shrimper and hang on.

Amberjack is your best bet, especially if you can find big baits. The 120-foot and deeper shipwrecks and springs are holding good numbers of fish. The larger the live bait, the bigger the jacks you will catch.

Redington Long Pier fishermen are catching silver trout on live shrimp using floats, speckled trout up to 22 inches, sheepshead and lots of butterfish. Pier 60 anglers also are catching silver and spotted trout and butterfish and a few undersized snook have been caught and released.

Gag grouper more than 22 inches, Spanish mackerel and large sheepshead are being caught from the North Skyway Pier, where live bait is plentiful.

Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters out of John's Pass, Treasure Island. Call (727) 709-9396 or e-mail him at huffyltampabay.rr.com.

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