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

April is the start-up month for some of the best fishing Tampa Bay has to offer, and this month’s topic is two unsung heroes. You guessed it–Spanish mackerel and Cobia.

Spanish mackerel and Cobia follow the bait inside the Skyway Bridge. The bigger baits will hang around tripods, artificial reefs and rocky bottom that abound from channel A just inside the Skyway bridge to the Howard Franklin bridge to the North.

My method for fishing Spanish mackerel is very simple.  Look for the diving birds, and they will guide you to the bait. If there is bait, the Spanish mackerel will be there feeding.  Once you find the bait anchor and start a chum line to keep the mackerel feeding behind the boat. Cut greenbacks will work great or a 10-pound box of frozen chum also does the trick.

I use light action tackle such as a 7’ 6” medium action Okuma rod and a 3000 Okuma Helios 3000 spinning reel with plenty of 15-pound test Fins braided line. With their razor-sharp teeth, mackerel bite off a fair share of hooks, so I prefer a #1 or 1/0 XX long shank hook with 30-pound test fluorocarbon leader about 36 inches long.

Hillsborough County has six artificial reefs that produce great quantities of Spanish mackerel every year. The information with GPS location can be obtained from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and they can even mail you their brochure upon request.

To fish for cobia, I anchor up on grass flats in the three-to-four-foot depth, and get my clients started with live sardine on a float letting it drift with the current for trout and some redfish. In the meantime, I cut forty or so green back sardines and toss them around the boat within 6 or 7 feet away, creating a scent field to attract the large brown southern stingrays.  Cobia are somewhat lazy, so they will ride under the big rays as they stir the bottom for food. The cobia are there to help themselves.

Keep one rod ready for action with a live pinfish or large greenback sardine with a 3/0 circle hook tied to a 40-pound fluorocarbon leader. Use a medium spinner like an OKUMA Salina 4000HA spinning reel 30-pound FINS Windtamer braided line and a medium heavy rod. I have been able to pull several nice cobia with this method, while keeping my clients happy catching other species, as we wait for the cobia to show.  You might have to move, if the rays don’t show up.








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