• Capt. Sergio Atanes

A Summer Night Adventure July 2022 By Captain Sergio Atanes

Summer storms are upon us, temperatures are rising, and nighttime 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 have the opportunity to fish from NW side of Gandy Bridge rocks and Picnic Island Pier. Boat anglers can target Howard Franklin, Gandy Bridge and Courtney Campbell causeway both the large and smaller bridge.

July and August 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 redfish ranging is size from 8 to 10-pounds can be caught using their favorite meal blue crabs.

Medium/Heavy tackle is recommended, I use my standard SRT rig of a 7-foot OKUMA Medium/Heavy action rod, OKUMA Azores 50 reel and 40-pound FINS braided line with double swivel 1 to 2 oz. sinker with 4-foot of 40-pound test Fluorocarbon leader tied to a 4/0 circle 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. The other baits would be large live shrimp or silver dollar size pinfish, but blue crabs will always be my first choice.

Another new entry over the years is underwater lighting for boats, they do work I have a pair of Shadow Caster multi color on my boat and it has increased my nighttime fishing by 50%. They are LED so electrical consumption is almost nothing I can run them for hours and my battery stays at the same voltage.

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.

Nighttime fishing has many rewards don’t be surprised if you hook on to a tarpon, snook 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.

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 both located on Gandy Blvd. Docks with underwater lights are magnets for trout, snook and flounder. A ¼ oz jig head with live shrimp hook thru the tail can do magic on flounder and even some nice mangrove snappers.

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