By JAY MASTRY
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2001
Weather is the only obstacle to a promising spring kingfish run. Water temperature is about where it should be, bait has been fairly easy to gather, and there are kings out there when you can get to them.
Saturday, before conditions deteriorated, we caught 17. Though we didn't get any monsters, we did manage to pull a 22-pounder away from the barracuda at the Betty Rose. Another king and a couple bonita weren't as lucky.
What they lacked in size they made up for in numbers a couple miles south of the wreck. Schoolies, juvenile kings 7-10 pounds, devoured the slow-trolled Spanish sardines and cigar minnows we offered. Double and sometimes triple hookups weren't uncommon.
Other charter boats were releasing kings after quickly reaching their limits. Many were using No. 3 planers and trolling spoons, others were dragging ballyhoo. Experiment with ways to present a variety of baits. Dress them in a skirt before you let them out. The glittery strands often will enhance a bait. Pearl, pink and green have been effective.
Add a trolling weight. The ounce or ounce-and-a-half torpedo-shaped lead with a swivel at each end will get your bait down several feet below your flat lines. Dull the shiny ones as an aggressive kingfish or mackerel has been known to take a whack at them.
Drifting is an effective way to get baits down and allow live bait to appear natural. Once a school of kings has been located, chumming while on a slow drift can produce multiple hookups and entice the frenzied kings to follow your boat a half-mile or more.
While much of the action had been in the 40- to 50-foot range, westerly wind has kicked up dirty water and bait will need a time to regroup.
There have been a dozen tarpon jumped at the Skyway bridge. Anglers on Redington Long Pier hooked a few weeks ago. Silver kings can be seen rolling inside some of our area passes on calm mornings and there have at least been some well inside Tampa Bay.
Though the big numbers won't show until May and June, those looking to put some in the air might want to fly-line greenbacks during the several days around April's full moon at the Skyway bridge.
-- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.
TODAY-SATURDAY: Mako Funament, Holiday Inn Airport Marina, U.S. 41, Bradenton, captain's meeting 6 tonight, weigh-in Saturday, Sarasota Outboard Club; (727) 366-8894. TODAY-SATURDAY: Spring on the flats tournament, Renaissance Vinoy Resort, St. Petersburg, captain's meeting and pairing 7 tonight, fishing starts 7 a.m. Saturday, awards and auction 7 p.m. Saturday; (727) 464-4985. SATURDAY: Fly-casting clinic, 10 a.m., Bill Jackson's, U.S. 19 N; (727) 576-4169. SATURDAY: Fly-casting clinic, 10 a.m., World Class Outfitters, 13911 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 968-3736.SATURDAY: Fly-casting clinic, women only at 11:30 a.m., coed at 12:30 p.m., Saltwater Fly Fisherman, Clearwater; (727) 443-5000.
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10:55 p.m. 4:40 p.m.
-- See Sunday's Outdoors for a list of next week's events. Send information to Outdoors, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. All items must be typed and arrive 10 days before the event. Include event name, time, address and phone number.