• Capt. Sergio Atanes

At last, April is nearly upon us, and with it comes some of the best fishing Tampa Bay has to offer. Anglers from Double Branch in the north to Bishop Harbor in the south are treated to some of the best inshore fishing anywhere in the state. Snook start their migration from the creeks and rivers to the flats and eventually to the passes to spawn by the first full moon of May.

Redfish and trout that call the flats home all summer long start bulking up on the greenback sardines. This live bait treat starts the ball rolling in the spring and lasts until the first cold snap in the fall. So look for the bait along the mangroves, and not far from there you’ll find the fish.

Spanish mackerel and cobia also follow the bait inside the Skyway Bridge. The bigger baits will hang around tripods, artificial reefs and rocky bottom that abound from channel A just inside the Skyway bridge to the Howard Franklin bridge to the north.

I find Spanish mackerel fishing exciting and most productive for my clients, so I make it a point to start my morning by searching for a school of big mackerel to get the adrenalin going. After boating 30 or 40 mackerel, it’s time to move on and start another hunt.

My method for fishing Spanish mackerel is very simple. Find the bait and anchor, and start a chum line to keep the mackerel feeding behind the boat. Cut greenbacks will work great or a 5 pound box of frozen chum also does the trick. Using light action tackle such as a 7-foot medium action Okuma rod, 3000 Okuma Helios spinning reel with plenty of 15-pound test Fins braided line, and a #1 XX long shank hook with 30 pound test fluorocarbon leader about 30 inches long works well. The XX long hook eliminates the need to use wire leader and increases your bites.

Hillsborough County has 6 artificial reefs that produce great quantities of Spanish mackerel every year. The information with GPS location can be obtained from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and they can even mail you their brochure upon request.

If you have kids, mackerel can entertain them all morning long. Also, remember that redfish and snook is closed this year during April. They are great to catch but sometimes hard to find and slow to bite, let’s give a break this year they need more time to recover after the red tide outbreak of last year. Make this April a special family affair with the kids by putting them on some fast mackerel action.

Capt. Sergio Atanes is the 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

Don Hickox with a nice 4 pound mackerel

Mackerel madness next the boat over 1000 mackerel going wild

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September 2018

By Capt. Sergio Atanes

September is my changeup month. I start getting away from the normal mackerel, trout and shark fishing and start concentrating on large redfish. With luck, the weather starts to turn just enough to make fishing fun again and the sun more bearable. I do a complete change up from my normal fishing with live bait and start using cut fresh threadfin sardines.

I look for these hard-fighting fish not on the flats, but around docks, bridges or deep cuts along oyster beds. It’s been a long hot summer and they are lazy fish looking for cooler deeper water. If you look closely at a redfish, his eyes are up high, and his mouth is down, clearly telling you he is a bottom feeder, which is the reason why so many redfish are lost on top water plugs or using live baits. They lose sight of their prey just before the strike.

First of all, start by finding docks with moving water. I prefer the start of an outgoing tide around the docks in the upper Tampa Bay area. Second, position your boat within casting distance of the shaded area of the dock, and third start chumming with small pieces of cut threadfin sardines.

I am now ready to fish using a 2/0 Kahle circle hook. With clients that do not have much fishing experience, I use J hooks, as their normal tendency is to pull to set the hook. However, for clients that have experience fishing for reds, I use Kahle circle hooks. I like 30-pound test fluorocarbon leader about 30 inches long tied to 15-pound braided line using a surgeon’s knot. There are a few knots you can use, but for simplicity, surgeons work best for me. Since I am fishing anywhere from 3 to 8 feet of water and have some current, I attach a 1/8 to ¼ ounce split shot sinker to keep the cut bait on the bottom.

I find that not all docks hold fish, and some are better than others, but you will have to learn that on your own. One thing about dock fishing is that the larger fish tend at hang around the deepest point on the dock or around any structure around the dock.

In the winter months we have cold fronts pass through and the high-pressure system sitting on top of us, which gives us extremely low tides. That is the best time to look at the docks in your area when the tides are low and clear water exposes rocks and old pilings. I found some docks with furniture under them or rocks and other debris that was dumped when the house was being built years earlier. Make a note about what you found and where the rocks are for the spring and fall fishing.

The big reds are waiting in the shade, so give them a try. As a bonus we have caught many over slot snook using this same method and some nice flounder.


Okuma #SSG-S-701MH Shadow Stalker 7-foot rod 10-20 pound class

Okuma #HSX30 Helios SX spinning reel

Fins 15-pound Windtamer Braided Line

Trident 2/0 Kahle (Wide Gap) Hook


Cut threadfin sardine

Cut fresh ladyfish

The fish:

1. Alvaro Brand nice red caught on cut bait

2. Lee Ryals another red from under the dock with cut bait

3. Capt. Sergio over slot snook on cut ladyfish using a 3/0 Kahle circle hook

4. Kahle hooks and circle hooks look similar, but there is a subtle difference in shape. In kahle hooks, the barb is pointed toward the hook eye instead of toward the shank of the hook. The distance is also much greater between the point and the shaft.

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