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

Change Is in The Air

September is my changeup month, when the weather starts to cool just enough to get the big boys to bite. Snook are slowly making their way back to the mangroves after their spawning season in the passes. The breeders or large female snook spent most of the summer in the passes spawning and are now ready to return and prepare for the Fall weather when they work their way into creeks and rivers.

As the water temperature starts to drop, the bite increases and the fish become more aggressive.  I love September for catching big redfish, a nice change up from the normal summer fishing for mackerel, trout and flounder. Not to say I didn’t catch reds or snook, but most of my summer clients prefer fast action rather than sitting in the heat waiting for a few redfish to bite.

September tactics: The big redfish start roaming the flats and are hungry, but not yet ready to chase down live bait. So, my secret to catching the big ones is using cut dead bait on the bottom, but not just any dead bait.  My years of experience tells me they love cut pinfish, ladyfish and threadfin sardines.  Remember that you want a nice chunk, but not too big, because you want them to be able to take it on the first bite.  I switch from my regular 1/0 to a 2/0 or even a 3/0 Kahle circle hook and 30-pound fluorocarbon leader about three feet long.  Depending on the depth of water I could use a number 3 or 4 split shot to keep the bait on the bottom. I put two rods off the stern and two rods on the bow of the boat while tossing some cut bait around the boat every few minutes to create my own feeding station.  Patience is the key word here, so don’t be in a hurry. Sit and wait and the big ones will come and, yes, there is a chance you could catch a few catfish, but it’s worth it if you can land the big ones.  Another advantage of using dead bait and chumming is that you could catch some nice cobia.

Don’t overlook deepwater docks with structure because, as the sun gets high and the temperature rises, they hold big redfish, flounder and snook looking for cooler water and shade.  The best times are either incoming or outgoing tide around midday–the key is moving water.

My Favorite Tackle on the flats:  I like the Okuma SRTE-S-761M Medium action 7.6 ft spinning rod with 15-pound test Fins Windtamer braided line in white (braid works great around structure). I also like the Okuma Helios SX HSX-30 spinning reel, Okuma Soft Steal 30-pound fluorocarbon leader at least 3-foot long tied direct to the braided line using a surgeon’s knot with a 2/0 or 3/0 Kahle circle hook.

Dock Fishing:  I use the Okuma SRTE-S-701MH Medium Heavy action 7-foot spinning rod with 30-pound test Fins Windtamer braided line in yellow.  I also use the Okuma Azores Z-4000H spinning reel and the Okuma Soft Steel 40-pound fluorocarbon leader 3-foot long tied direct to braided line again surgeon’s knot with 3/0 Kahle circle hook.

Baits: I prefer fresh cut pinfish, threadfin sardines and ladyfish.  The key word here is fresh. Any cut bait not being used should be kept on ice.  Greenback sardines can be used as a substitute, if the above baits are not available.

Color of braided line:  Did you catch it–how I used two different colors? The answer I can tell the client is, pick the rod with white line without having to explain white is 15-pound or yellow is 30-pound. It’s a simple method for picking the right rod from the rack.

Capt. Sergio’s Saltwater Fishing School will be held on October 20 and 21 on when, where and how to catch fish in Tampa Bay.  For more information, please email him.