Bait schools near shore drawing kings, mackerel, bonito

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http://www.tampabay.com/sports/outdoors/Captain-s-Corner-Bait-schools-near-shore-drawing-kings-mackerel-bonito_163239255

Nearshore fishing is still going strong in north Pinellas. Bait schools are roaming just a couple of miles offshore, attracting kingfish, Spanish mackerel and bonito. The beaches are still holding sardines for cast netting at sunrise. I like to have a baitwell full of sardines for chumming if sitting on anchor. Otherwise, once offshore look for the birds diving into threadfin schools. Use sabiki rigs to jig up a few of the larger threadfin herring. Use wire and a 2/0 or 3/0 hook and a treble hook tied on for a stinger. Sometimes slow trolling in the vicinity of the bait schools is the best way get a strike from a kingfish; 50- to 65-pound mainline and 30- to 50-pound leader is a good combination for these smokers. If the kingfish bite is slow, anchor over hard bottom, again near the bait schools, and chum cut pieces of baits. This will get the mackerel and bonito coming to the boat, and even the kings can get in the chum line eventually. The popular artificial reefs are holding a few mangrove snappers and small groupers. Once over a rockpile, chumming cut pieces will often gather the snapper right behind the boat. However, they are shy of hooks and line, so downsize to a #2 hook and long shot of lighter leader, usually 20 pounds. Then slowly drift a cut piece of bait into the chummed pieces.

Brian Caudill fishes from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs. He can be reached at (727) 365-7560 and captbrian.com.