A Summer’s Night Adventure By: 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 are there, just to name a few. Shore anglers can fish from under the Gandy Bridge sea wall and Picnic Island Pier.  Boat anglers can target Howard Franklin, Gandy Bridge and the Courtney Campbell Causeway Bridge.

May, June and July are prime months for catching large redfish.  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 one pound to a world record of 94 pounds. This time of year, large red drum and black drum, ranging in size from 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, 50-pound Fins braided line, a double swivel, two-ounce sinker and four feet 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 four to five 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 surprised if you hook onto 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–please obey the rules.  Redfish season is scheduled to open May 10th. This can change, so check the FWC site for updated information.

Good fishing and tight lines.

1.  J. Richards with another big black drum from under the Gandy Bridge

2. Medium blue crab cut in half.