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  • Capt. Sergio Atanes

Midday thunderstorms and high temperatures often turn many anglers into night creatures searching for their prey. Several advantages come into play; the night brings out the best in tarpon, snook, trout and black drum fishing and some tolerable conditions.

Fishing from shore Picnic Island fishing pier offers a great location for the whole family to spend several hours on a weekend catching fish. Boaters can launch either at the Courtney Campbell boat ramp or the Salty Sol boat ramp located one mile west of Westshore Blvd. on Gandy Blvd.

The best fishing takes place about an hour after sundown through 2 a.m. Free lined live bait “meaning no weights are added” drifted under the lights will draw the attention of trout, snook and tarpon. Using LED underwater lights make nighttime fishing a breeze. The Hydro Glow LED Fish Light is designed to vertically suspend itself below the surface of the water radiating a bright green glow in all directions. This design utilizes 100% of the light generated by the light for the designed purpose, attracting fish. The bright fluorescent green light gets it effectiveness by attracting the entire aquatic food chain. From microscopic plankton to various sizes of minnow, to many species of game fish, all find the Hydro Glow Fish Light irresistible.

Boaters can also take advantage of dock lights following the same pattern. The live bait should be allowed to drift with the current flow from the shadow line into the light and back into the dark. Most important when dock fishing at night is to always respect the owner’s right to privacy and avoid loud noises by using the stealth system. That means be quiet!

Some of my favorite baits, shad and greenback sardines both can be caught under the bridges at night with a bait cast net. Shrimp are on top of the food chain except summer months they tend to be on the small size and are often rechecked by the big fish.

Artificial baits work well if presented right, mu favorite is Fishbites paddle tail with a 1/8 oz jig head work slowly with the current. Start by casting past the dock and work in from the dark to the edge of the lights, If the lights are on the bottom of the dock bounce it along the edge of the light.

Remenber to pick a spot with light or create your own using a Coleman lantern, Hydro Glow light or on many new boats they are equipped with underwater lighting from the factory. The light must be strong enough to draw small bait fish, be patient and they will come. Do not overlook bottom fishing I have caught snook; cobia and black drum on a bottom rig while catching snook, trout and tarpon on the surface.

Boaters need to anchor or use your trolling motor spot lock if equipped under the bridge with the stern of the boat just even with the shadow line (where the light from the bridge cast shadow) snook and tarpon cruise the dark side and strike the bait fish attracted to the light. The brighter the light you have the better chances of catching fish.

I recommend medium spinning tackle 15 to 20 test line 40-pound test leader with 3/0 hook for surface fishing and conventional tackle with 30 to 40-pound test line 50-pound test leader and 4/0 hook for the bottom rigs some of the black drum caught can range from 20 to 50 pounds.

Black drum are plentiful this month, their favorite bait a half of a fresh blue crab which can be caught along the shoreline or purchased at the local bait and tackle stores.

Here is a tip always add a piece of Fishbites Shrimp flavor chunk strip to increase your catch. This product stays on the hook so if you miss the first bite Fishbites Chucks stays on to give you another chance at catching you prey.

In Tampa Bay I have found the Gandy and Howard Franklin bridges to be the most productive. The smaller bridges of the Skyway and Fort Desoto area are top snook producers. The main span of the Skyway can produce some large mangrove snapper and grouper during the full moon nights during the summer.

Stay cool this summer while fishing on the DARK SIDE.

Good fishing and tight lines.

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  • Capt. Sergio Atanes

By Capt. Sergio Atanes

The large school of baitfish made a dash to one side, barely avoiding the gleaming teeth of a large king mackerel. The fish turned, and this time hit his target with deadly precision.

My bait was the first to hit the water, Rolando was a second behind, and we both spotted the silver flash of an accelerating king mackerel. In a split second the water exploded, and the large predator rocketed into the sky with hapless bait clinched in its gleaming teeth. This is what fishing for kingfish is all about, the run the fight and the glory if you get the chance to land the big one.

The longer days of spring and warmer waters bring the schools of baitfish to the shallow Gulf waters. When water temperatures start to increase to 72-degrees, king mackerel start their northern migration, stopping to feed on the schools of sardines and cigar minnows along the coastline of Florida. Kings are caught each year from many Gulf piers and extend to twenty miles from shore, which puts them within range of the average angler.

Rolando prefers to use heavy tackle that insures more boated fish; 40-pound coffee colored wire, black swivel, long shank 3/0 hook tied to 40-pound 4-foot-long fluorocarbon leader with 45-pound braided line on a conventional reel, and a 7-foot medium heavy rod. My preference is a medium spinning outfit, including 20-pound braided line and a number 10-barrel black swivel tied to 40-pound fluorocarbon leader with a stinger rig. Although Rolando and I have our own preferences in the type of tackle to use, we both agree on two types of fishing methods that work well: drifting and anchoring.

Many anglers prefer trolling for kingfish I am one of those who love to watch the fish strike and make that long first run, especially early calm morning when the water look like a calm peaceful lake. Trolling allows you to cover more areas but I rather sit and chum, one side note I have caught many a permit while anchored waiting for the kingfish to arrive.

Many ledges and artificial reefs can be found on Florida’s west coast, especially between Tarpon Springs and Boca Grande. If you decide to drop anchor, make sure you are up current from any ledges or reefs to prevent getting snagged. Getting too close to these areas can cause you to lose not only your rigging, but also your fish. By cutting some bait into small pieces and allowing it to drift with the current, king mackerel will quickly pick up the scent and zero in on the bait. When drifting, first find a school of baitfish and start your drift up-tide from the school while free lining your bait on the outer edges of the school. Repeat the process when the school is out of casting range. Using live bait, whether drifting or anchoring, it will increase your chances of boating a king mackerel.

Live bait can be easily caught on the grass flats, along the edges of the channels, or around channel markers. A 10-foot bait net is best for the shallow waters and a 12-foot larger mesh net is recommended for deeper waters.

Baitwells are a necessity; sardines require a large volume of moving water and oxygen to stay healthy. I recommend adding an aeration system to insure lively baits. Several add-on systems are available for either bridge anglers or boats without baitwells.

King mackerel are fast swimmers that need a constant supply of oxygen to stay alive. Even a short period out of water can be fatal. It is important to be ready with gloves and pliers for a quick release. King mackerel have a 24” fork size minimum and a 3-bag limit per day in Gulf waters. Keep only what you can eat and release the rest for another day.

Tackle Conventional:

MK-C-701MH Okuma 7’ Rod

KDS-463P Okuma Komodos SS Reel

FINS 40G 45-pound braided line

Spinning Tackle:

SRT-Elite SRTE-S-761H 7’6” rod

Z-40S Okuma Azores reel

FINS Windtamer 20-pound braided line

  1. Capt. Sergio with a 30-pound king fish

  2. Capt. Sergio with a 60-pound kingfish

  3. Miss Susan with a nice keeper

  4. Stinger rig

  5. Cut bait for chumming

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  • Capt. Sergio Atanes

By Capt. Sergio Atanes

Black Drum (Pogonias Cromis)

Black drum are like the redfish in shape but are distinguishable by their color and barbells or feeders on the underside of the lower jaw. Smaller drum in the 6 to 8-pound range are usually as tasty as redfish.

Black drum start to migrate towards the bridges of Tampa Bay and the many artificial reefs after their spawning ritual is completed. The big brutes are now ready to eat and populate our waters and show local anglers a great fishing time.

Black drum are known for their ability to produce a “croaking” or “drumming” sound. They also produce a high intensity sounds that are associate with spawning.

Habitat: Inshore fish common to bays, river mouths, oyster beds and bridge pilings.

The older and bigger fish prefer saltier water and tend to migrate into the Gulf of Mexico. Young tend to live inshore around structure.

Size: Reported up to 70 inches. Black drum mature at 4-years old and can live 40-years or more weight over 100-pounds in Gulf coast waters. Atlantic coast they can reach 60-years and weight close to 120-pounds.

Appearance: Juveniles have vertical bars on sides often mistaken for sheepshead. Large scales and powerful teeth used to crush oysters and shellfish.

Black drum make a great sport for kids and adults. Excellent table fare in the 14-to-24-inch range and considered some of the best seafood around.

March: Is the kickoff month for these brutes as they work their way into Tampa Bay for their spawning ritual. Weather plays an important rule some years they are in by mid-February on the average March seems to be my best time to land the big ones.


Early March I start fishing the sand bar in front of Pinellas Point this seems to be their stopping area to spawn before they work their way into upper Tampa Bay.

Late March, April, May, June are my peak times to fish under the bridges or oyster bars.

On a good day you can spot the fish on the sand bar and as you can see on the attached picture, they cover the bottom of the boat. The clear white sandy bottom makes them stand out and easy to find.

They will move into deeper water along the sand bar later in the month and you will need your depth finder or a tower boat to spot them.

April through September:

Under bridges or around oyster bars. Bridge fishing offers the best of both worlds, keeping you cool under the shade of the bridge during the day and nighttime dry when those late evening showers come by to wet things a little.

How To:

Sand Bar Fishing: First find the fish second use the correct rig. I like to use a jig head anywhere from 3/8 oz to ½ oz depending on the depth of the water. Live shrimp hook from the tail and work slowly through the school. Drifting with the motor turned off not to spook the school. Once hooked use the trolling motor if needed to hold you spot until the fish is landed.

Bridge Fishing:

Here you have two options. One live shrimp on a ½ oz banana jig dropping it along side of the pilings working it with a slow up and down movement no more than several feet from the bottom this will give you a chance both pompano and black drum.

Second choice a 3/0 circle hook with ½ oz knocker rig heavier if needed to keep the bait on the bottom. Fresh blue crab either in half or quarter according to the size of the crab.

Oyster Bars and Channel Fishing:

I find most of the wondering black drum in 2 to 4-foot of water after their spawn. I will use a 2/0 Circle hook with a medium to large live shrimp free lined. I cast ahead of the school and use a slow retrieve; these fish are normally feeding so put food in front of them does the trick. One thing I have found is the like clean water.

Key Things To Remember:

· Shrimp and Blue Crabs are top of their list for food.

· Use circler hooks let them hook themselves.

· The like structure and moving water.

· Primarily bottom feeders.


Sand bar and Channel fishing.

· 7’.6” Okuma SRTE-S-761H inshore spinning rod.

· ITX-4000 Okuma spinning reel.

· 30-Pound Fins Windtammer braided line.

Bridge fishing.

· 7’0 Okuma CJ-S-701M Cedros spinning rod.

· 6000H Okuma Azores spinning reel.

· 50-pound Fins Windtammer braided line.

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