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

As a captain, I am often asked the question, “How do you know where fish are day after day?” The two things we stress in our fishing school is learning the “when and where” of catching fish.  I will try to explain each one as it relates to Tampa Bay. In order to know when, we must understand solunar tables, moon phases and currents.

Solunar tables are what I call nature’s clock. During a 24-hour period, we have two major and two minor feeding periods. This doesn’t mean that fish feed only during these times, but the chances of catching more fish exist.

Major periods are the best time to fish.  These periods begin at the times the moon is above or below where you are fishing and lasts approximately two hours. Minor periods are good, but do not last as long. These periods begin when the moon is rising or setting.

The tide is the vertical motion or rise and fall of water. Tide tables give the daily predictions of the times and heights of high and low waters.

Tides are the result of forces caused by the gravitational attractions between the moon, sun and Earth, in combination with the Earth spinning on its axis

Spring tide, the best fishing tide, is an extra high tide occurring semi-monthly at the time of the full moon and new moon.  It brings an extra high high-water and lower low-water.  Neap tide, the least desirable time to fish, is a smaller tide, occurring monthly at the same time of the Moon’s first quarter and last quarter.  There is not much difference between high and low water. Vanishing tides are when the highs and lows are indistinguishable in a mixed tide.

Where to fish will be different according to season. During the winter, look for rocks that are close to the surface during low tides and seawalls. They act as a heater radiating the sun’s heat into the water. Creeks and rivers generate heat from decaying matter and the muddy bottom. Docks not only generate heat, but also create a safe haven for many species of fish.  The bigger the boat dock, the better the spot to fish, as larger boats tend to leave deeper holes from prop wash in the water. Power plants are another good source of heat. Always fish the west side of the Bay in the morning, as the sun’s rays will heat this area first. Fish the east side in the afternoon.  Winter provides us the best view of the areas we can fish due to extreme low tides, which expose cuts along the mangroves, oyster beds and potholes that are hidden during the summer months.

During the summer, look for points of ambush or cuts in the mangroves where water drains with the outgoing tide. Structures are great for holding fish. Redfish tend to hang out around schooling mullet, as they tend to stir up the bottom, bringing up small crabs and shrimp, making a feast for following redfish.  Artificial reefs are also great this time of year for mackerel, snook and grouper.