A week's worth of decent weather coupled with the recent drop in the water temperature seems to have accelerated the migration of the fall run of pelagics, particularly kingfish.
There was a report of 300 pounds of kings caught by a commercial vessel in the middle grounds this week. This could indicate the initial wave of fish has swung wide and well outside our range. Scattered reports of isolated king catches closer to shore have trickled in, a few at the outer markers of the Egmont Ships Channel among them.
Spanish mackerel are everywhere. We caught 30 Sunday while anchored and chumming in 26 feet off Blind Pass. We caught 50 more Tuesday using the same technique on a patch of hard bottom in 20 feet off St. Pete Beach.
While monofilament leader and long-shank hooks may be preferred in clear water, we were able to get away with 12-inch lengths of No. 1 wire and the smallest swivels made to avoid most cutoffs. The coffee-colored wire is 25-pound test and has the same diameter as 10-pound monofilament, allowing baits to swim freely while going undetected by the sometimes leader-shy macks.
Redfish and snook fishing are among the best bets. Working the dock lights in residential canals on the backside of Treasure Island, St. Pete Beach and Pass-a-Grille at night has been most productive. There will be nights when whitebait will outperform them, but large shrimp will get it done. During the day, fishing the outgoing tide at the passes has been fairly consistent, with John's Pass among the best.
Grouper and snapper fishing has been outstanding, but you had to take a ride to get there. The magic numbers this week: 120 feet and a minimum of 45 miles each away.
Justin Mastry and his party caught gag grouper up to 15 pounds and more mangrove snapper than they could keep, with the largest about 7 pounds. Wait until the wind dies to make that trip, then take live and dead bait.
Cobia appeared inshore and off. A large school settled in at the South County artificial reef, but high winds and rough seas probably have caused them to relocate. Anglers in the Pinellas Point area reported cobia up to 40 pounds at some of the markers and buoys and on a couple flats.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.