By DAVE ZALEWSKI
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 23, 2000
Because strong winds caused rough water, I spent most of the past week canceling charters. The fishing was exceptional when we were able to leave port. It was necessary to find clean water to ensure a good catch.
Trolling wasn't great at the artificial reefs and the Betty Rose because of murky conditions. The 10-fathom wreck, whistler buoy and the Nos. 3 and 4 markers produced bonito, Spanish mackerel and kingfish. The fish were not holding right on the structure; they were caught under birds working 100-300 yards away.
If you use the global positioning system and your unit has a "man overboard" button, hit the button whenever somebody shouts, "Fish on." You can return to the position of the strike. The birds above the fish may leave, but the school of fish often stays to feed on baitfish no longer visible to birds or anglers.
Bottom fishing was good when the water was clear. The 60-foot depths produced mostly gag grouper, with a few keeper reds thrown in. Lane snapper were caught on every trip. By using 5/0 and 6/0 hooks for grouper, we also were able to target many smaller reef fish, such as triggerfish, scamp and mangrove snapper. They provide great table fare. The best way to catch these fish is to equip at least one angler with smaller, 1/0 or 2/0 hooks and 20-pound leader.
Because it was cold, I didn't jump into the water to see how many fish had moved into shallow water. But with the lower water temperatures and the increased visibility because algae and plankton are dying, gulf diving will be at its best as soon as the wind stops blowing.
- Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.