Kingfish showed up just 3 to 4 miles off Anclote Key over the past week, and while most of the fish were schoolies up to about 10 pounds, the odd smoker fish has been reported.
While as of this writing, the effects of the storm in the Gulf that passed to our north were keeping anglers off the water, just prior to things getting nasty, boats trolling and fishing live baits on hard bottom off the island were taking good numbers of fish. That’s good news, as all too often, the schools of kings pass by this part of the state well offshore. If the storm doesn’t throw off the pattern, it looks like anglers may not have to go far to find some fish.
The same areas also were holding large numbers of Spanish mackerel. Trolled spoons with wire leader, or slow-trolled live sardines or threadfins, are the ticket. Once fish are found, anchoring up and chumming is a good way to load the boat. Fingers are crossed that the fish will stay close to shore and not pass by too quickly on their fall migration south.
A good approach is to hit the first hard bottom offshore and start trolling large spoons or plugs at various depths, from near surface to down on planers or downriggers. Keep an eye open for bait fish schools or diving birds, as kings will target the bait fish. If a fish is hooked, make a another pass through the same area, and if a second is hooked, keep working that patch of bottom or anchor up current of the area and get some chum in the water and set out live bait on a free-line or under a balloon.
Tarpon Fishing Outfitters, (727) 942-8944: Steve says anglers were reporting schoolie kings in 25 to 30 feet of water off Anclote Key. Trolling is the way to locate the schools, while setting up and free-lining live bait once fish are found is a good strategy. Chumming provides a big advantage. Trout fishing is good on the grass flats up and down the coast, and some snorkelers diving the north jetties at Howard Park reported spotting good numbers of smaller snook around the rocks.
Anclote Bait and Tackle, (727) 945-1808: Capt. Griff says the best news of the last week is the appearance of kings 3 miles off the beach at Anclote Key. Most of the fish taken have been between 8 and 10 pounds, but be ready for the odd smoker to grab a live bait or trolled artificial. Lost of Spanish mackerel have been over the same hard-bottom areas off the island. Grouper action has been good in 45 to 65 feet of water. Inshore, snook are still around Anclote Key, though fish are migrating to the Anclote River and area backwaters as the season rolls on. There still are lots of sharks on the shallow grass flats, and there seems to be plenty of bait fish around.
Pier 60, (727) 462-6466: Mackerel have been schooling around the pier, with anglers taking some good numbers at times. A few pompano have been landed, and flounder fishing has been pretty good. A 33-inch snook was caught and released, and anglers are hooking or seeing others under the pier. Whiting and silver trout have started to show up in daily catches.
The Long Pier, (727) 391-9398: Action has been good at the pier, with good numbers of mackerel taken during the day, and some nice trout under the lights at night. Flounder fishing has been good over the sandy bottom, and there have been jacks and ladyfish to provide some fun.
Nick Stubbs is founder and webmaster of Bitetracker.com, an interactive fishing website.