Focus on mackerel while waiting for fall kingfish run

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Mackerel have picked up the slack as we wait for the bigger number of kingfish to show up. East winds have drawn huge schools of bait into 20- to 25-foot depths over some of the hard-bottom areas along the gulf beaches. Big numbers of opportunistic mackerel have followed them in to take advantage. Slow-trolled whitebait in and around those bait pods often result in double and triple hookups on 12-pound spinning tackle and single-hook rigs. I like a foot-long length of single-strand, coffee-colored No. 2 wire (29-pound test) to prevent cutoffs from the sharp-toothed macks. Winds that shifted more south over the weekend will temporarily scatter the perfect-sized mackerel baits that had bunched up inside the swash along the beaches. Until we return to the normal weather pattern of east winds, consider gathering bait on the flats on the inside before heading into the gulf. On Saturday, despite strong winds and sloppy conditions, we managed a bunch of mackerel (some 3 and 4 pounds), a couple of kingfish and bonita working bait pods off Treasure Island. Take a couple of jiggle rods and gold-hook rigs if you go. You can cast net the pods if they’re thick, but each trip we’ve been able to jiggle up all the full-blown greenbacks we’ve wanted for kingfish baits while we were trolling. If weather forecasters are accurate, this week could be the beginning of something big as we ready for our fall run of kingfish.

Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.