• Capt. Sergio Atanes

Mackerel Madness

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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