School’s out, so there’s no better time to introduce a young boy or girl to saltwater fishing in the gulf, either on a family friendly charter boat or a private vessel. Long runs far offshore are not necessary since there are a variety of fish that will make for a memorable experience. Spanish mackerel provide light-tackle, drag-pulling action usually within 7 miles from shore. They can be targeted at the mouth of any bay, especially on an outgoing tide when water containing crabs, shrimp and baitfish is being flushed into the gulf. Several methods can be employed. The most common is to troll No. 1 planers and Nos. 0 or 1 spoons 25 feet behind the planer with 40-pound leader at a speed of 5-6 knots. Another method is to anchor just at the point where the dirty bay water meets the clean gulf water, deploy a chum bag, and use live or frozen shrimp hooked just under the horn with a 2/0 long-shanked gold hook. Wire leader is not always necessary, and if cutoffs occur, joining two hooks together will remedy the problem. If the mouth of a pass is not producing, moving 3 miles offshore to the “highway” — a band of rocky areas that runs from Clearwater to the Egmont channel — is a good alternative. Spanish mackerel have to be a minimum of 12 inches fork length; king mackerel 24 inches fork length. It’s easy to confuse a juvenile kingfish with a Spanish mackerel since both have spots. The two main things to look for are the lateral lines and dorsal fins. A juvenile king has a decided drop in the lateral line on its side. The dorsal fin of a juvenile king will be much lighter in color, more of a gray or white, while a Spanish mackerel’s dorsal will be black or very dark colored.

Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.