It’s kingfish time, though it came early this year

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We like to say that March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day) signifies the beginning of kingfish season. This winter has been unlike most because there has been enough kingfish to target on a daily basis. Last weekend the waters erupted with kingfish, from the shipping channel north to Clearwater, with many boats reporting limit catches (two per person per day). Trolling spoons and plugs behind planers or trolling sinkers proved to be more effective than slow-trolling live bait, but this will soon change with live bait slow-trolling to be the method of choice. Spanish mackerel are on all nearshore artificial reefs, those 5 to 7 miles offshore, such as St. Pete Beach and Madeira Beach reefs. Mixed in with Spanish mackerel, which must be at least 12-inches minimum fork length, are numerous juvenile kingfish that closely resemble their cousins the Spanish mackerel. A juvenile kingfish’s lateral line has a significant dip when compared to a Spanish mackerel whose lateral line is almost straight. Also the dorsal fin of a small king is more gray or white, while a Spanish is black or very dark. Bottom fishing in the 65- to 70-foot depths has been excellent for all of the snappers and white grunts.

Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.