Tampa Bay As I Knew It (Part IV) January 2020
By Capt. Sergio Atanes
You have no idea how much fun growing up in Tampa Bay was in the 50’s and 60’s the area had so much to offer when it came to fishing. During the summer months we crabbed and fish at the same time. My uncle Manuel who was my mentor had gathered 12 old broom sticks from the neighbors he would tie a string about 15 feet long and at the end he used a chicken neck wrapped in my aunts old nylon stockings, when the crab would grab the chicken neck the nylon would cling to its claws, we would slowly work the neck towards us and scoop the crab up it was easy and fun. Some days we could land as many as 4 dozen crabs on a day outing.
The big bridge on the Courtney Causeway always produced good quantity of trout and redfish during the winter fishing from the shoreline. Coming from a poor family and tackle was a luxury I quickly learned as soon the water turned warm enough to swim in around early May I would snorkel the rocks on both sides of the bridge and find lures and jgs some years as many as 3 dozen Mirr O Lures many in perfect condition or just needing some treble hooks. Why so many Mirr O Lures well back in those days they were the best lure to use and made locally to booth.
Safety Harbor the old power plant no longer there was a hot spot for big trout, redfish, snook and pompano in the winter months, we would wait till 8:00 p.m. you had to crawl under the fence to fish the channel that feed the hot water into the bay we had to keep a low profile and a eye out for the bright light when the door to the plant opened that meant the guard was coming out to make his run we had lay flat on the ground and wait for him to pass on his jeep once the door closed and we could start fishing again. Sure we got caught a few time but in those days guards knew we just wanted to fish and asked us to leave. There I took my girlfriend on a cold December night to fish with and when she said count me in I knew this was the girl for me we married a few years later and still married after 49 years.
On the Tampa side of Courtney Campbell Causeway there used be one of the best little restaurant called the Mullet Inn great smoked mullet and the best mullet spread I have ever had, just behind it was one of the best small tarpon fishing in late August and early September we would use top water plugs and averaged 10 to 20 tarpon a night if the tide was right.
Most of the fishing we did was from shore a boat was a luxury in those days and the only time we fished in a boat it would be out of Tarpon Springs on a party boat which cost about $10.00 for a all day trip.
Rocky Point was mostly woods and fishing from the shoreline was easy and a fantastic, plenty of redfish and trout around the rocks we called snook soap fish in those days and no one wanted anything to do with them. We would spend hours catching fiddler crabs to fish with although shrimp was only twenty cents a dozen it was a lot money in those days when the average person was making eighty five cents an hour.
I remember Howard The Trader out of Clearwater appeared every Sunday morning TV with his specials, Howard was quite a showman he had barn on the main drag into Clearwater and bought closeouts. One Sunday we went to buy fishing hooks and line he had on sale I remember a box of 100 3/0 hooks from Mustad ten cents and a ¼ pound spool of mono line for only twenty five cents.
Stay turned for another article on Tampa Bay As I Knew it Part V.
Good fishing and tight lines and good fishing.
Capt. Sergio Atanes is host of Florida West Coast Fishing Report on Facebook and YouTube. He is also host to Aventuras De Pesca USA on national TV and Radio.
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