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

The Dark Side of Fishing

Midday thunderstorms and high temperatures often turn many anglers into night creatures searching for their prey.  Several advantages come into play; the night brings out the best in tarpon, snook, trout and black drum fishing and some tolerable conditions.

Fishing from shore, Picnic Island fishing pier offers a great location for the whole family to spend several hours on a weekend catching fish.  Boaters can launch either at the Courtney Campbell boat ramp or the Salty Sol boat ramp located one mile west of Westshore Blvd. on Gandy Blvd.

The best fishing takes place about an hour after sundown through 2 a.m.  Freelined live bait (meaning no weights are added) drifted under the lights will draw the attention of trout, snook and tarpon.  Using LED underwater lights make nighttime fishing a breeze. The Hydro Glow LED Fish Light is designed to vertically suspend itself below the surface of the water radiating a bright green glow in all directions. The bright fluorescent green light is effective in attracting the entire aquatic food chain–from microscopic plankton to various sizes of minnow and many species of game fish.

Boaters can also take advantage of dock lights following the same pattern.  The live bait should be allowed to drift with the current flow from the shadow line into the light and back into the dark. Most important when dock fishing at night is to always respect the owner’s right to privacy and avoid loud noises by using the stealth system.

Some of my favorite baits, shad and greenback sardines, can be caught under the bridges at night with a bait cast net.  Shrimp are on top of the food chain; except summer months they tend to be on the small size and are often rechecked by the big fish.

Artificial baits work well if presented right. My favorite is Fishbites paddle tail with a 1/8 ounce jig head worked slowly with the current.  Start by casting past the dock and work in from the dark to the edge of the lights, If the lights are on the bottom of the dock, bounce it along the edge of the light.

Remenber to pick a spot with light or create your own using a Coleman lantern or Hydro Glow light; or, many new boats they are equipped with underwater lighting from the factory.  The light must be strong enough to draw small bait fish–be patient and they will come.  Do not overlook bottom fishing. I have caught snook, cobia and black drum on a bottom rig while catching snook, trout and tarpon on the surface.

Boaters need to anchor or use their trolling motor spot lock, if equipped, under the bridge with the stern of the boat just even with the shadow line (where the light from the bridge casts a shadow). Snook and tarpon cruise the dark side and strike the bait fish attracted to the light.  The brighter the light–the better chances of catching fish.

I recommend medium spinning tackle 15 to 20 test line and 40-pound test leader with 3/0 hook for surface fishing. I recommend conventional tackle with 30 to 40-pound test line, 50-pound test leader and a 4/0 hook for the bottom rig. Some of the black drum caught can range from 20 to 50 pounds.

Black drum are plentiful this month. Their favorite bait is half of a fresh blue crab which can be caught along the shoreline or purchased at the local bait and tackle store.

Here is a tip.  Always add a piece of Fishbites Shrimp flavor chunk strip to increase your catch.  This product stays on the hook so, if you miss the first bite, Fishbites Chunks stay on to give you another chance at catching your prey.

In Tampa Bay, I have found the Gandy and Howard Franklin bridges to be the most productive.  The smaller bridges of the Skyway and Fort Desoto area are top snook producers.  The main span of the Skyway can produce some large mangrove snapper and grouper during the full moon nights during the summer. Stay cool this summer while fishing on the dark side.

Good fishing and tight lines.