• Capt. Sergio Atanes

By Capt. Sergio Atanes October 2022

October has a lot to offer depending on the weather. Some years water temperatures drop quickly due to some early cool fronts (not cold fronts) or normal they should start a gradual drop as the month comes to an end. Two things are normal for this month Cobia make their last showing around buoys and range markers making them easier to catch. Redfish get pumped up and start getting ready for the winter weather both are great catch and eat.

Cobia Fishing, I prefer neat tides the slower the better makes them come up around the surface more to feed and easier to catch. I use medium spinning tackle 40-pound breaded line a 3-inch float (Four Horsemen) with 40-pound leader and about 5-feet long tied to a 3/0 circle hook. Live Baits top choice for me live pinfish or large threadfin sardine.

Artificial Baits many of the imitation crabs or long ell types work great and should always have one rod ready to go in case the cobia shows up close to the boat.

Buoy Hopping is considered one of the best methods for Cobia fishing in October simply put get there first early as you can and go from one buoy to another you will find them it takes time and money for gas but well worth the trip when you can end up a nice one for dinner. New rules are now in effect for size and total allowed on a boat per day.

Redfish Fishing patterns have changed over the past years and the redfish have shifted from the flats to the docks from Covert Isles to Snell Isle. Most of us captains haven’t quite figured out why this has happened, so we can only guess. We have noticed more action around the docks and structures than on the flats. So, what is my secret to catching the big redfish? Using cut dead bait on the bottom? My years of experience tell me they love cut pinfish, threadfin sardines and ladyfish. Remember that you want a nice chunk but not too big, because you want them to be able to take it on the first bite. I switch from my regular 1/0 to a 2/0 or even a 3/0 kahle circle hook and 40-pound fluorocarbon leader about 3-feet long. Depending on the depth of water, I add a number 3 or 4 split shot or even a 3/8-ounce egg sinker rigged Texas style to keep the bait on the bottom. I have an advantage using my 2-10 ft. Power Poles. My method is to drop the anchor just past the dock and back my boat between the two docks and then drop my Power Poles keeping the boat anchored parallel to the docks. This way I can fish clients from either side of the boat depending on tide movement. First, I bait my clients up and cast their baits about midway under the dock. Then I start tossing some small pieces of cut bait every few minutes to create my own feeding station or you can make your life easy and use Lee Fisher Chum Ring which makes chum from any bait you have on board or use pre-made chum to put inside of it patience is the key word here, so don’t be in a hurry. Sit and wait and the big ones will come, and yes there is a chance you could catch a few catfish but it’s worth it if you can land a few big reds.

Speckled Trout fishing for the big ones is just starting this month and as the weather cools seems the bigger, they get. Look for the big ones around the edges of channels and any drop offs in the flats that tend to be at least 4 to 6 feet in depth. Gandy bridge has always been a great spot for me at the cold fronts move in so don’t overlook this great eating fish and fun to catch. Trout are excellent to fish for with artificial baits. Use light tackle to make the adventure even better.

Tackle for cobia:

Okuma Cedros 7 ft rod with Okuma Azores 6000H reel

Line: Fins Windtamer braided 40-pound test

Leader: SoftSteel stretchable Fluorocarbon 40-pound test

Hook: Trident 3/0 circle

Tackle for redfish:

Okuma SRT Inshore Elite 7-6 MH rod with Azores 4000H reel

Line: Fins Windtamer braided 20-pound test

Leader: Softsteel stretchable Fluorocarbon 40-pound test

Hook: Trident 3/0 Kahle circle

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  • Capt. Sergio Atanes

My most memorable gift was given to me by my uncle Manuel. I was only 5 years old when he arrived from Cuba to live with us until he got on his feet, and at only 18 years old was already a die-hard fishman. In the 50’s we lived in Ybor City and in those days, we didn’t have parks or a Boys Club in the area. My parents didn’t drive so they took the bus to work. My uncle was given an old Nash Rambler from a friend to help us out and he started working in the shipyard within a month of arriving.

He would work until 2 am and go straight to Bayshore Blvd. to tend to his tins (pieces of metal roofing bent to form a half dome) and blue carbs would go under the tins to molt. He would use his Coleman gas lantern, a #12 galvanized tub tied to his waist. Underneath the tins would be either a soft-shell crab (that was dinner) or a shedder crab that was for bait. The shedder crabs would be put in the crisper bottom of the refrigerator on damp newspaper and could be kept alive for a week or more.

During the summer we would leave Friday for Boca Grande to fish, and since no interstates were available, we had to make the long trip using US41. We had to take the last ferry boat leaving from Placita to Boca Grande since there were no bridges connecting the mainland to the island. There we would fish the shoreline and from the old phosphate dock when we were allowed to, for grouper, mangrove snapper, trout, redfish, and a goliath grouper occasionally.

Within a year my uncle received an invitation to join the Army (called the draft in those days) but he had lit the fire within me to become a fisherman. Thanks to his patience and time I spent summers fishing from the old 22nd street bridge riding my bike every morning with my hand made rod from an old broom stick and casting reel donated from a neighbor. While other kids were getting into trouble, I was too busy thinking of caching the big one.

As I grew older, I wanted to give back, so I started a saltwater fishing school and graduated over 7000 adult students since the 80’s. Looking back, I didn’t do as good a job as I should have with my own kids and now with all these computer games it seems like kids are spending too much time indoors in dark rooms, so I decided to do something about it and had my first Free Kid’s Fishing Clinic held at Picnic Park in June. Many sponsors and volunteers including many captains donated their time and gave up charters to help the kids. Mayor Jane Castor played a big role in helping me out by taking time from her busy schedule to spend time with the kids (Jane is a great angler herself).

Each kid went home with a rod n reel combo, a tote bag with fishing goodies, and hopefully we were able to lite that fire for fishing that my uncle did for me. Soon we could have many future anglers on the water instead of being locked up in a room playing computer games.

This would be my biggest catch if I were able to get them united with mom or dad on the water sharing some time together.

Looking forward to doing this again soon and please feel free to contact me if you can volunteer or donate items to help kids become anglers.

Companies who donated:

Alberto’s AC, Lithobinders Printers, Coastal Angler Magazine, Onshore-Offshore Magazine, Cracker Boy Marine, Family Boating, Stadium Toyota, Lee Fisher Sports, Loadmaster Trailers, OKUMA, Pathfinder Boats, Hubbard’s Marina, Power Pole, Fishing Adventures USA, Hook n Tackle and T.A. Mahoney Co.

Captains who volunteered:

Capt. Sergio Atanes, Capt. Chris Camps, Capt. Craig Lahr, Capt. Eddie Caldwell, Capt. Tony Frankland, Capt. Larry Fritch, Capt. Tom Charlton, Capt. Bucky Goldmans, Capt. Freddy Ortiz, Capt. Micheal Gibbs, Capt. John Rivers, Capt. Drew Echenigue, Lee Murray and Capt. John Griffith.

Special thanks to:

Leiza Fitzgerald of CCA of Florida

Gena Russo of FWC

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Summer storms are upon us, temperatures are rising, and nighttime fishing is hot. Tampa residents are in for a treat. Night fishing has its rewards with cool breezes clear nights and tight lines.

Summer brings an influx of game fish into upper Tampa Bay a short drive for Tampa residents. Tarpon, snook, trout, red drum “redfish” and black drum just to name a few; Shore anglers have the opportunity to fish from NW side of Gandy Bridge rocks and Picnic Island Pier. Boat anglers can target Howard Franklin, Gandy Bridge and Courtney Campbell causeway both the large and smaller bridge.

July and August are prime months for catching large redfish (sciaenops ocellatus). A close relative of black drum, this hard fighting gamester has the pulling power of a small freight train on the loose. Redfish can range from 1 pound to a world record of 94 pounds. This time of year, large redfish ranging is size from 8 to 10-pounds can be caught using their favorite meal blue crabs.

Medium/Heavy tackle is recommended, I use my standard SRT rig of a 7-foot OKUMA Medium/Heavy action rod, OKUMA Azores 50 reel and 40-pound FINS braided line with double swivel 1 to 2 oz. sinker with 4-foot of 40-pound test Fluorocarbon leader tied to a 4/0 circle hook.

Large redfish hang out around most bridge pilings; I find those that are closer to shore to be the most productive. Call any of the local bait shops a few days ahead and reserve a dozen medium blue crabs. A crab can be cut in half and used as two baits. Remove the top cap, cut the legs off, and insert the hook through one leg socket and out the other. The other baits would be large live shrimp or silver dollar size pinfish, but blue crabs will always be my first choice.

Another new entry over the years is underwater lighting for boats, they do work I have a pair of Shadow Caster multi color on my boat and it has increased my nighttime fishing by 50%. They are LED so electrical consumption is almost nothing I can run them for hours and my battery stays at the same voltage.

Bridge anglers can drop their line straight down alongside the piling and hang on. Boaters have a more difficult task. You need to anchor under the bridge with the stern of the boat within 4 to 5 feet from the outmost piling. Boaters should be prepared for a quick release of their anchor when a large fish is hooked. A common tool used is a fender or float tied above the water line to the anchor line. When a large fish is hooked the anchor line is released. The current will drift the boat away from the bridge allowing the angler to fight his catch. When finished return to the fender or float and retie.

Nighttime fishing has many rewards don’t be surprised if you hook on to a tarpon, snook or a black drum while fishing for redfish around the bridges.

The slot size for redfish is 18 to 27 inches and only one per angler per day so please obey the rules.

Boat ramp for boaters-Salty Sol on Gandy Blvd. one mile west of West Shore Blvd.

Bait shops-Gandy Bait & Tackle and Trapmans Bait & Tackle both located on Gandy Blvd. Docks with underwater lights are magnets for trout, snook and flounder. A ¼ oz jig head with live shrimp hook thru the tail can do magic on flounder and even some nice mangrove snappers.

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