December 26th, 2016

Captain’s Corner for December 29 Dave Zalewski 460-9893

Kingfish, Spanish mackerel , bonita and barracuda and the various schooling baitfish have usually left our waters shortly after Thanksgiving for warmer, more comfortable water in the Keys and further south. This year is a major exception. We are still catching trolling fish on a daily basis by trolling either spoons and plugs or live baits once they are found. South County, Indian Shores, Rube Allyn, and Veteran’s Artificial Reefs are great places to start. Trolling hardware at a speed of 6 knots allows us to cover the area thoroughly by moving from structure to structure which are scattered over a quarter mile square in the case of these midwinter reefs. Once fish are located, they can be fished by continuing hardware trolling or switching to live bait sabikied on site and slow trolled by use of a stinger rig. For anglers fishing the southern part of Pinellas County, the shipping channel is producing from markers 9 and 10 all the way out to the Whistler Buoy, which denotes the beginning of the channel. On many days the fish are staying deep and the use of a #2 or #3 planer is necessary to get the spoons into the strike zone.
Gag grouper season ends December 31 and red grouper fishing has remained spotty at best. There are several other fish to target. Amberjack season opens Jan 1 and they appear to be in good supply over most of the offshore wrecks. Triggerfish will remain closed for the entire year of 2017. White grunts, Lane, vermillion and mangrove snapper all are excellent table fare and are available in good numbers for anglers willing to downsize hooks and sinkers. It is easy to catch a large fish on a small strong hook, and difficult to catch a small reef fish on a large hook.