We have waited for cooler weather to work its way down, and here it comes. Last week provided some early season king mackerel at all depths. Large fish, also known as smokers, could be found close to the beaches, with good numbers of smaller fish around the 10-mile artificial reefs.
Even the grouper action has picked up in 50 feet. Bottom line: It's time to go fishing.
Keep in mind that with each blast of cool air, the fish move. Active places this week could be empty after the next weather front.
The beginning and end of a fall kingfish migration is when you'll find big fish. Don't be surprised if a 40-pounder bites this week.
I like to beef up the leader material. A lengthy piece of 40-pound wire leader is adequate, and don't be afraid to put out baits that seem too big. Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and mullet are my favorites.
The great thing about fall is the mixed bag. Spanish mackerel, cobia, sharks and even a few straggler tarpon can be lured into a chum slick.
This week, catching bait was easy. Cast nets and gold-hook rigs got the job done with ease around many of the bell buoys outside the passes. Massive schools of pilchards and threadfin herring were available.
And baitfish aren't the only ones swimming around the buoys: Our 12-foot net unintentionally captured three cobia last week. Luckily my first mate was securely fastened to the deck with a good pair of deck shoes. When the rope went tight he almost was taken overboard by the strength of those brown bombers. After untangling the ruined net, we let the cobia go. It felt like cheating.
Long journeys offshore are producing. Anglers traveling to the middle grounds have scored big with gag grouper. A lot of American red snapper are also available, and count on a few mangrove snapper.
There is no reason to take clients that far into the gulf when the fish are cooperative inshore. Live bait is the key for inshore grouper until the water drops a few more degrees.
Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call 727 595-3276, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org