Fishing is a great sport for families to spend some quality time together. Not all kids are created equal when it comes to sports, but fishing is different–any youngster can learn the basics and catch fish. In fact, fishing is 20% knowledge and 80% luck.
Let’s start with the basic tackle. A saltwater rod and reel combo can be purchased for under $40.00 at most tackle stores. Add a small tackle box, some hooks, sinkers, lures and swivels–all of which can be purchased for under $50.00. For less than the cost of one football game, a family of four can get started for around $200.00.
The next question is where do we go from here? That is easy, because the Tampa Bay area has plenty of fishing piers both inside Tampa Bay and on the Gulf of Mexico. We are also blessed with miles of shoreline.
Pier fishing is simple. Just pick an open spot, especially next to the guy catching fish (just kidding) and ask questions at the bait house. This could be your best source of information on what is biting and how to rig for them. Look for the anglers with wagons or small shopping carts converted to carry rods and tackle. These guys are what I call pier pros and they know their stuff. Fishermen are good-natured and most are always willing to extend a helping hand to get someone else started.
Another source for action is along the miles of shoreline and beaches. Wade fishing can be both fun and refreshing during the summer months. Add a picnic lunch and you are ready for action. Shore bound anglers can catch as many, if not more fish, than pier fisherman. There are miles of shoreline to walk and try your luck. Some examples are Courtney Campbell Parkway, Cypress Creek Park (great wading area for redfish), the south end of Picnic Island, Gandy Bridge east side and around the radio towers. These are all perfect for shore anglers and waders. Weedon Island has a productive fishing pier, a kayak ramp and a lot of history. It is a great place to spend some time fishing and bonding.
Surface feeding fish like cobia, mackerel and tarpon can be caught by free lining your bait with the current. If fishing from the shore, I recommend using a float to keep the bait from sinking to the bottom.
For bottom feeders such as redfish, flounder, mangrove snapper and pompano, attach an egg sinker just heavy enough to keep the bait on the bottom. Look for structure, old dock pilings, rocky bottom and oyster beds for a great place to start fishing. Sheepshead make their home around the pilings, and a simple rig consisting of a #1 J hook with 24 inches of 30-pound test mono leader and a 1-ounce sinker, depending on current flow, will surely help you land one. Sheepshead are known as one of the best bait stealers around. When hooked, they will give any youngster a battle they will not soon forget.
A family that fishes together stays together. I am always willing to help kids learn more about fishing, so do not hesitate to call me for any questions you may have.
Good fishing and tight lines.