• 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

  • 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