Capt. Sergio’s Corner By: Capt. Sergio Atanes

Changing Times Require Changing Our Tactics

Just when we think we know it all, it changes. Take, for example, redfish. For years, we could count on the months of April, May and June to produce large quantities of redfish. In the last four years, the large schools that roamed the flats are rarely there. The closure of redfish will help them to rebound. In the meantime, we can focus on other species

Since the net ban, the pompano population has increased tenfold giving local anglers a chance to catch fish. Pompano are found in the warm waters of Tampa Bay and the shorelines of the Gulf beaches.  They can be caught from the shore line, around bridge pilings and by working the grass flats.  One old trick is to run your boat on a plane through the flats, and watch for them skipping your wave. Once you see them skip, work the area with jigs and live shrimp, while drifting the flats.

My favorite tackle for pompano is 10 to 15-pound braided line on a medium spinning reel and a 7-foot 6-inch fast tapered spinning rod.  I found that using 20-pound fluorocarbon leader with a #1 J hook works best.

Live baits are used when fishing on the bottom with a small split shot–just enough to drag the bottom and stir up some sand, while drawing the attention of the pompano. When fishing the beaches, sand fleas are also a good choice and easy to catch. Artificial baits are another method, and my favorite is using jigs, especially banana jigs, as they give me the ability to cover a larger area whether I am fishing the shoreline or drifting the flats in a boat.  You want to bounce the jig off the bottom so that, when it falls, a puff of sand pops up making it look like a crab trying to bury itself.  Some of the best jigs I have found are the 1/4 and 3/8 ounce in pink, white or yellow.  The other is a feathered jig chrome head with white, red and silver feathers. Fishbites makes strip baits in shrimp and crab scent that are killers for pompano.  Attach a small piece to the jig and let it work its magic.

Mangrove snapper is another species often overlooked this time of year. Mangrove snapper is good table fare and are tough fighters. You can freeline the bait along the mangroves, or add 3/8 to 1/2-ounce sinkers to keep the bait close to the bottom when fishing around the bridge pilings or artificial reefs. Mangrove snapper are usually found around bridges, rock piles, artificial reefs and along the mangroves.

Spanish Mackerel is another species that can make your day. They give a good fight, are not bad to eat and terrific to smoke.  They move in in May, and will be around until the first cold front in the fall.  I prefer to use a 1/0 XXL J hook tied to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader at least 32 inches long.  The XXL hook eliminates about 70 percent of your cut offs.  Live greenback sardines hooked through the nose if there’s a strong tide–if not, just behind the front fin.

Snook are spawning for the next several months, and I prefer to let them do their thing as they can be caught anytime–let them have some time off.