Near shore fishing has exploded with the recent drop in water temperature. Large schools of threadfin herring are congregating just 2 to 4 miles off the shores of North Pinellas County. Along with the schools of bait comes massive groups of spanish mackerel and a small population of kingfish entering the area. For those seeking action, it’s about a 10 minute boat ride out, promising hours of steady rod bending. We are still cast netting for smaller sardines along the beach, while also using a sabiki rig to jig up some of the larger threadfins. Spanish mackerel will devour the sardines all day, but the kingfish will likely seek out the threadfins trolled behind the boat or cast a much longer distance behind the mackerel action while anchored. I will often bring a chum block to hang off the back of the boat to entice fish closer. Eventually, sharks may become too numerous and begin attacking the mackerel we are reeling in. When this happens, I will usually put out a shark rod with 60 to 80-pound wire leader and a 5/0 circle hook. A chunk of ladyfish or larger baitfish cut in half will get eaten very quickly once the sharks begin to swarm behind the boat. Bonito have also been chasing the bait schools. They have a blistering first run when hooked, mimicking a kingfish. Although not great table fare, bonito are a great fight and a very beautiful fish to snap a picture of and then release.

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