© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2002
Inshore and offshore fishing is at a springtime peak.
Gag grouper are active in 40- to 50-foot depths. The ledges in 60 to 90 feet of water have a noticeable lack of grouper. With the almost perfect weather, it is easy to venture too far offshore to where the fish will be in another month.
Wintertime methods still should be employed for a short time. Start with squid and cut sardines until the grunts, triggerfish and other reef fish have created a feeding frenzy. When the larger gags become interested, send down a live pinfish, squirrelfish or cigar minnow.
The deployment of a flatline with a stinger rig will bring welcome surprises such as kingfish, Spanish mackerel, cobia and blackfin tuna. Unwelcome surprises such as barracuda, bonita and sharks also will be encountered.
The use of a live bait such as a sardine or cigar minnow on the flatline is the norm. But on many occasions, a dead sardine may be more productive, because it has a tendency to float halfway to the bottom where the pelagics are feeding on the pieces of bait that are being lost or expelled by the bottom fish on their way up.
Top-to-bottom visibility is present for divers in most depths between 25 and 60 feet. This is a great time to carefully try a drift-dive in some of the shallower waters. The onboard observer should have no difficulty keeping the divers in sight from the surface. Many new ledges and rock piles can be found and logged for the future by using this method.
Schools of large Spanish mackerel have invaded the areas near every pass entering the gulf. It is easy to get too far offshore when fishing for these spotted speedsters. The best catches are being reported by those fishing no farther than a mile from the shoreline and employing small live baits, jigs or spoons.
Tarpon have shown up near the Sunshine Skyway bridge and on the beaches. They have been spotted in the passes early in the morning mixed in with snook.
-- Capt. Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at (727) 397-8815 or by e-mail at Luckytoo2@aol.com.