Reef fish abundant offshore; mackerel, kings better near shore

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Before this recent cold front, we were able to travel where we wanted, and the calm seas allowed us to make the mistake of running past the best depths for our type of fishing. The 40- to 50-foot depths produced almost nonstop action from reef fish, including red and gag grouper, mangrove snapper and large white grunts along with numerous triggerfish, which had to be released. Triggerfish are a great indicator that a reef is alive because they only inhabit areas where they can graze on live corals and reef-dwelling crustaceans. Kingfish and Spanish mackerel fishing has been best closer to shore, with the most productive areas being hard bottom 1½ to 2 miles offshore. This band of limestone outcroppings can be found by watching for diving birds or by following the strings of stone crab trap markers on or adjacent to the rock. On Saturday we found schools of bull redfish in the 20- to 30-pound range under flocks of terns and frigate birds. Having a rod rigged with a large small-lipped plug and ready to put out when trolling for mackerel and kingfish is a must. Triple hookups are common, and the drags on the planer rods must be set to just hold the planer from pulling line off the reel.

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