What's hot: Two species made an early showing over the past week, hopefully kicking off a long fall season. Kingfish made a strong showing in 60 feet near schools of Spanish sardines. The bait schools were scattered, but once located with a depth finder or by diving birds, the kingfish also were there.
Some undersized fish were mixed in with the 10- to 12-pounders that were caught. Most fish were landed by trolling No. 2 and No. 3 planers with larger spoons or broken back gold plugs 30 feet behind the planers. Because the bait schools were on the move, hardware trolling was more effective than slow-trolling live bait.
In the same depths, gag grouper became much more active than they had been all summer. More gags were found on rocky bottoms near ledges rather than on the ledges, possibly indicating these fish are already moving closer inshore to begin feeding in anticipation of winter.
To do list: Normally, the appearance of kingfish coincides with Columbus Day (Oct. 10). It's time to break out kingfish tackle and respool the reels with fresh line. Check the drags (which hopefully have been backed off) for smoothness. If any sticking or hesitation is felt, have a tackle shop rebuild them. In a few weeks, there will be a much longer wait for service. Inspect guides for cracks and burrs. Running a piece of nylon stockings through each guide will quickly let you know if there is a problem.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.