Even though we have had to change our game plan for fishing offshore because of Red Tide, which refuses to leave, it’s evident that the fall season has begun. Normally we are able to target Spanish mackerel, kingfish and bonita within a few miles from shore. We have started to target these species, along with barracuda, much farther offshore in 60-foot depths where in most years at this time we start bottom fishing. The pelagic fish seem to be able to sense the presence of Red Tide and avoid it. On several recent trips we’ve experienced spectacular mackerel fishing in the 3- to 5-mile offshore range by looking for feeding activity, indicated by terns and pelicans diving into the water in search of baitfish forced to the surface by schools of mackerel or dying because of Red Tide. If the predators are present, strikes will be almost instantaneous by trolling small spoons. Action will be constant by following the bird activity. If there are no bites, it is best to move on because birds are feeding on dying baitfish and mackerel have avoided the area. Bottom fishing has shown a marked improvement with Lane snapper, white grunts and red grouper being the primary targets in depths of 60 feet or more. The tasty Lane snapper have filled the vacuum created by fewer red grouper and can be found on almost any area of flat hard limestone bottom.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.