• Capt. Sergio Atanes

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.

Emil atanes@msn.com 813-973-7132 reelfishing.com




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  • Capt. Sergio Atanes

Red Waters of Tarpon Key July 2019

By Capt. Sergio Atanes


July is great month for catching large redfish in Tampa Bay; although redfish are year long residents of the bay the large breeders prefer the mangrove shoreline. During the winter they move into the Gulf of Mexico and are often caught while grouper fishing.

My clients were ready to battle some big fish today, so I decided to go for the big reds hanging around Tarpon Key. We met around 6 a.m., stopped for our first cup of coffee at Panera’s for quick breakfast from there we headed to Port 32 Tampa (old Tampa Harbour Marina) where I call my home port. We told stories about the big ones we had lost in the past and the ones we were going to catch today.

A short trip to catch bait at my secret spot and from there it was off to Tarpon Key, one of my favorite spots for large redfish this time of year. Once we reached the no motor zone, I lowered the Great White trolling motor and with one touch 112-pounds of thrust came to life propelling my 25 ft. Pathfinder bay boat in the direction of Tarpon Key. Many islands and keys in Tampa Bay are protected areas and one must use either a trolling motor or a push pole.

We slowly worked our way to the southwest point of the key and here we anchored and waited for the school to appear. Patience is important since the school can appear in a moment’s notice.

We were prepared for action; 2 rods with live pinfish suspended just below the surface of the water using one of my favorite floats Cajun Thunder and 2-other rods with greenbacks free lined just beyond our floats. The sun’s rays were slowly breaking into the crystal-clear water and you could see movements of small pinfish darting in and out of the grass and mullet starting to jump. I could tell by client’s look he was ready for action, and so was I. Just beyond our reach we could see a small wake as if a small boat had buzzed by. We both looked at each other and without a word prepared for an attack. The reds were coming; my client drew first blood and within a split second mine was next. Three hook ups and no one around to see it. We had them all to ourselves for over 2 hours. We battled reds, winning some fights and losing others.

Large schools of reds will congregate around mangrove islands; some schools are so large they form a red wave as they push through the shallow waters of the flats. My two favorite baits for these large bruisers are 3-5-inch pinfish or dollar size pass crabs. Casting distance is a must and medium tackle works best. I prefer to use 15-pound test Fins Windtamer braided line, which gives great line capacity on a medium reel such as a Okuma Helios SX30 spinning reel and 7 foot Okuma Ricky Red medium action rod. The combination is a perfect match for catching large reds and snook on the flats and mangroves.




  • Capt. Sergio Atanes

Summer storms are upon us, temperatures are rising, and night time 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 can fish from under Gandy Bridge sea wall and Picnic Island Pier. Boat anglers can target Howard Franklin, Gandy Bridge and Courtney Campbell Causeway Bridge.


May, June and July 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 red drum and black drum ranging is size fro 10 to 25

pounds can be caught using their favorite meal blue crabs.



Medium tackle is recommended, I use my standard grouper rig of a 7-foot Okuma

medium action rod, Okuma Komodo SS 463 reel and 50-pound Fins braided line with

double swivel 2 oz. sinker with 4 foot of 60 pound test momo leader tied to a 3/0 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.

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. Night time fishing has many rewards don’t be surprise if you hook on to a large tarpon 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.



At its May meeting in Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) extended several fisheries management conservation measures for red drum, snook and spotted seatrout in areas of southwest Florida impacted by a prolonged red tide that occurred from November 2017 through mid-February 2019.

The extension for red drum, snook and spotted seatrout will go into effect May 11 and will apply from the Pasco-Hernando county line south (including all waters of Tampa Bay) through Gordon Pass in Collier County. Previously approved catch-and-release measures, including no harvest of spotted seatrout over 20 inches, remain in effect through May 10.


Changes effective May 11:

Snook and red drum will remain catch-and-release only for an additional year through May 31, 2020.


Spotted seatrout will be catch-and-release only, including no commercial harvest through May 31, 2020.


Check FWC site for updated information on regulations.

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 located on Gandy Blvd.


1. J. Richards another big black drum from under Gandy Bridge

2 . Medium blue crab cut in half.


Good fishing and tight lines.

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. Capt.

Sergio Atanes can be reached at (813) 973-7132 or www.reelfishy.com

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