• Capt. Sergio Atanes

By Capt. Sergio Atanes

Being a guide is a rewarding experience, watching the smile on a young child

catching his first fish or the look on their parent’s face struggling to land the one

big fish of the day. It’s all in a day’s work for us guides.

Being the captain of the vessel, the young kids and their parents are expecting

us to lead them to treasure (the fish), but we must first ourselves know where

to go and what to do. Here is where a little work gives a big payoff.

You can’t fish the same grounds day after day, because sooner or later you are

going to deplete the stock from that area, so invest a little time learning your

area. I call it spending some T & M (time on the water and money for gas)

exploring new areas. Here are some ideas to make you a better angler.

Find old charts of Tampa Bay at yard sales and you will quickly find they have a

wealth of information. Did you know that Tampa Bay had over 23 wrecks

between the Skyway Bridge and downtown Tampa? The old charts can lead you

somewhat close to them, and if you are lucky enough to find one you hit the

jackpot. I found 6 of them over the years, some were lost as silt settled over

them and they slowly sank into the ground.

Ledges in Tampa Bay you say yes, I do and some real nice ones at that. During

spring and start of summer they produce some real nice grouper, grunts and

seabass. When winter sets in, the same ledges hold large sheepshead and

resident gag grouper, tripletail for some unknown reason and even some big


There are several fish havens around the St. Pete pier that are no longer on

modern charts, but the old charts still show them and with a little T & M you

might just find them. They are one of my favorite spots for catching sharks

during the summer months and even some nice grouper.

When looking for good hunting grounds in Tampa Bay, I would suggest the use

of deep running plugs. There are several good brands on the market that can

dive from 15 to 25 ft according to your speed. Pick a spot from your chart and

troll an area of hard bottom, and using your tracking on your GPS, run a north to

south pattern. When you get a strike, mark the spot with a buoy or an anti-

freeze bottle filled with expanding foam, and with a heavy enough weight to

hold it in place, go back and drift the area with live pinfish, sardines or cut bait.

When you get the first strike, it’s time to anchor and start catching. Oh, did I

forget to mention you just found a new spot to fish.

Ballast Point rings a bell. Many years ago, most sea-going ships could not enter

what is now known as Hillsborough Bay without dropping their ballast

overboard. I will admit the fishing is not as good as when I fished it years ago,

but certain times of the year large trout and sheepshead call Ballast Point rocks

their home.

Tackle (grouper-trolling)

Okuma 7 ft. Cedros Heavy spinning rod.

Okuma Azores 8000 spinning reel.

Fins 50-pound test braided line.

50-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Tackle (sheepshead, redfish, tripletail)

Okuma 7 ft. Ricky Red spinning rod.

Okuma Helios 30 spinning reel.

Fins Windtamer 15-pound test braided line.

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


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

  • Capt. Sergio Atanes

Homosassa Gags March 2020

By Capt. Sergio Atanes

Homosassa is one of the oldest residential communities to be found along Florida’s west coast. Once a major sugar growing and refining town, it now supports some of the finest redfish, tarpon, and grouper fishing in the state. With this in mind, I was determined to test the ability of Capt. Howie Green, a well-known local guide and personal friend.

I called Howie and suggested we use his 17ft. skiff to do one of his double bagger trips, grouper fishing in the morning and redfish in the afternoon. Capt. Howie agreed, and we found ourselves leaving River Haven Marina on a cold February morning with anticipation of catching grouper. What most anglers do not realize is that grouper tend to migrate closer to shore during the winter months, making them more accessible from a small boat.

As we made our way through the many “no wake” and “Manatee” zones, Capt. Howie explained our goal for the day. First, we would head three to four miles offshore to an area of scattered rock piles no deeper than ten feet. Here we would find grouper. Later we would venture inshore among the mangrove islands and grass flats that adorn the Homosassa coast for redfish and large trout

Once we reached the mouth of the Homosassa River, we made a quick detour to pick up some live pinfish from one of Capt. Howie’s bait traps. Howie’s thoughts are always to be prepared, as some day’s fish prefer live bait and other days the rattle and movement of a fast-retrieved plug is what turns them on.

With a slight northeast breeze, Capt. Howie opened the throttle to the 115hp outboard, and the small skiff responded without hesitation. We traveled in a westerly direction for fifteen minutes, keeping a careful eye on his GPS. As we reached our destination, Capt. Howie brought the skiff to an idle speed and the search was on. Being in only ten feet of crystal-clear water, there was no need for a depth sounder. We just started looking for the dark spots among the sandy bottom and within minutes we could see the large boulders, some almost reaching the surface as saying, “here I am, come and get me.”

On our first try we drifted within casting distance of two large rocks, Capt. Howie with live pinfish and I with my favorite lure F633 YO-Zuri Mag Minnow. On my third cast I picked up the speed on the retrieve and with a hit much like hooking into a fast-moving train, my rod bent double and the line screamed. Before I could adjust the drag, the large gag grouper had worked me over making his run home and leaving me with dreams of what I had lost. Capt. Howie smiled, knowing there was more to come, and two hours later we had boated eight grouper and lost five to the rocks. Now it was time to head toward the mangrove islands visible in the horizon for some redfish action.

Homosassa boasts some of the most beautiful flats along the west coast, a mecca for tarpon in the spring, and redfish and trout all year long. The endless chain of mangrove islands and shoreline create a haven for above average redfish and gator trout. Boundless acres of grass flats with crystal clear water make flats fishing a new experience.

Capt. Howie picked an area with salt and pepper bottom (grass flats with sandy potholes) on the outer edge of St. Martins key. This would give us a double shot at catching fish. Trout would hang around the sandy potholes and redfish along oyster beds that surround the key. Within minutes I hooked a redfish, realizing my carefully placed cast alongside an oyster bar had paid off. Like a bull on the loose, the redfish made his move, kicking into high gear heading for the oyster bar. I was grateful I had chosen my bait caster over my spinning outfit. The twenty- pound Fins Windtamer braided line held on and after what seemed an eternity; the redfish gave in and came along boat side.

As the tide dropped, we worked around the points where the current forced the bait through the cuts made by centuries of erosion. Here the redfish would sit and wait for the current to bring their brunch and once again we struck gold. The redfish were hungry and attacked our gold spoons as if they hadn’t eaten in a week. Score for the day was eight grouper, six red fish, and four trout. Capt. Howie had done job and I got my story.

Capt. Sergio with a shallow water gag.

Capt. Sergio nice redfish caught using a Fishbite Paddle tale jig!

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

Phone: 813-973-7132 reelfishing.com

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  • Capt. Sergio Atanes

Feb.. 2020

By Capt. Sergio Atanes

As a captain, I am often asked the question, “how do you know where fish are day after day?” First, we are not magicians; we just apply some common sense and fishing knowledge. This doesn’t mean we can’t have a bad day, but our chances of catching fish are better than the average angler.

The two things we stress in our fishing school is learning the “When – Where” of catching fish. I will try to explain each one as it relates to Tampa Bay.

In order to know when, we must understand solunar tables, moon phases and currents.

Solunar tables are what I call nature’s clock. During a 24-hour period, we have 2 major and 2 minor feeding periods. This doesn’t mean that fish feed only during these times, but the chances of catching more fish exist.

Major periods are the best time to fish. These periods begin at the times the moon is above or below where you are fishing and lasts approximately two hours.

Minor periods are good but do not last as long. These periods begin when the moon is rising or setting.

Tides are the result of centrifugal forces caused by the gravitational attractions between the Moon, Sun, and Earth, in combination with the Earth spinning on its axis and the Moon circling the Earth in the opposite direction of the Earth’s spin. The moon rotates on its axis in exactly the length of time that it circles around the earth. The moon takes approximately 2.3 day to circle the earth.

A tide is the vertical motion or rise and fall of water. Tide tables give the daily predictions of the times and heights of high and low waters.

There are many explanations and descriptions of tidal movements, as well as reasons and suppositions as to why tides occur. Actually, much of the terminology refers to the same three tidal phenomena of spring tide, neap tide, and vanishing tide.

Spring tide, Neap tide, Vanishing tides.

Spring tide, the best fishing tide, is an extra high tide occurring semi-monthly at the time of the Full Moon and New Moon. It brings an extra high-high-water and lower low water. The Sun, Moon, and the Earth are in a straight line over a given point on Earth. Waters 200 miles away will experience a different tidal occurrence because the moon will not be directly over that geographical position.

Neap tide, the least desirable time to fish, is a smaller tide, occurring monthly at the same time of the Moon’s first quarter and last quarter. There is not much difference between high and low water. The celestial bodies are not in phase with each other, creating less gravitational pull on the water even though the centrifugal force from the spinning Earth remains the same.

Vanishing tides, are when the highs and lows are indistinguishable in a mixed tide.

Terms to remember.

When the tides are in full swing, the Flood Current will flow from the sea into harbors, rivers, and bay waters. (Rising tide)

When the tides are lowering, the Ebb Current from the bay, rivers, and harbors will flow in down-stream direction toward and out to the sea. (Fallen tide)

Currents are horizontal movements of water. The average current flow of a tide in a confined area is approximately 61/4 hours and then it stops, reverses direction and flows for approximately the same length of time.

Slack water is the condition where there is no current in the water. The water is in a stationary condition just before and after a tidal change; such as an Ebb or Flood current.

Where, we can break it down into Winter and Summer.

Winter look for rocks that are close to the surface during low tides and seawalls. They act as a heater radiating the sun’s heat into the water. Ever wondered why fish swim along the outer edges of a seawall or circle rock piles? Creeks and rivers generate heat from decaying matter, and the muddy bottom also tends to retains heat longer. Docks not only generate heat but also create a safe haven for many species of fish. The bigger the boat dock, the better the spot to fish, as larger boats tend to leave deeper holes from prop wash in the water. Power plants are another good source of heat, especially in extreme low temperatures.

Always fish the west side of the bay in the morning, as the sun’s rays will heat this area first. Fish the east side in the afternoon. Winter provides us the best view of the areas we can fish due to extreme low tides, which expose cuts along the mangroves, oyster beds and potholes that are hidden during the summer months.

Summer look for points of ambush or cuts in the mangroves where water drains with the outgoing tide. Structures are great for holding fish. I have one spot where someone threw an old truck tire; you can count on snook and redfish to be around it during high tide. Redfish tend to hang-out around schooling mullet, as they tend to stir up the bottom, bringing up small crabs and shrimp, making a feast for following redfish. Artificial reefs are also great this time of year for mackerel, snook and grouper.

When you do things right the rewards will follow. Allen Miller with nice triple tail

Alfredo Tapia nice mangrove snapper

3. Rolando Rodriguez with a redfish

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

(813) 973-7132

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