Spring time fishing is quickly approaching and bait is making its way back into our area and onto the flats around Anclote Key. If you have put your net away for the winter, take some practice throws in the yard before setting out for bait. When looking for bait, try to go on a day before you need bait to look around, or scout out bait areas. Look for the "rain on the surface" of the water, which is the bait schools moving. Also ask around while at the boat ramp and see if anyone may have seen baitfish. There may be bait at the ramp where you launched, and you''ll be able to load up in a few minutes versus having to scout and chum.
Springtime trout and redfish are in the waters around Anclote Anchorage and Anclote Key. Look for drop-offs and unmarked natural channels on the north and south ends of Dutchman Key and Anclote Key for trout and reds. Drifting across the flats in this area is a good way to cover a lot of area and find new fishing areas you may have driven across a dozen or more times. Freeline a nose-hooked white bait through these areas. I like to use a 1/0 Mustad live bait hook, or a 1/0 circle hook on 15-25# leader. I'll change the weight of the leader depending on water clarity and structure that may be around.
Bait offshore is also moving in. On a recent trip we were about 7 miles on the west side of Anclote Key. We found a change in the bottom, and saw some birds in the area. We changed our heading and went right at the birds and found four large schools of blue runners. The bait were marked on the sonar, and a few sibiki throws later, we had 20 baits in the live well. These baits are perfect for the kingfish that are starting to move through the hard bottom areas in 15-80 feet of water.
Set ups for kings start with a good "stinger" rig. It's a J-hook connected to a treble hook by a wire leader. The blue runner is nose-hooked with the J-hook and then the treble hook is hooked on the back in front of the dorsal fin. Practice making your own stinger rigs. There are great videos out there, and it allows you to customize your hook distance to the bait size, leading to better presentation and more bites. A wire leader and a moderately light drag (5-8 lbs.) is a must with these toothy, fast moving, hard-hitting fish.
Have fun and stay safe,