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

My Christmas Wish

I remember the year 1952 when my Uncle Manuel, age 19, arrived from Cuba to live with us until he could go out on his own. This is when my life turned around at the age of five.  He lived with us for about a year, until Uncle Sam sent him an invitation to join the Army (the draft). During that short period, he taught me how to fish. Coming from a poor family, both of my parents worked to make ends meet and pay the bills. There was just enough left over each week for me to go to the Ritz Theatre on Saturday and not much more, so fishing became my big outlet.

My uncle took me under his wing and started to teach me the basics of fishing he had learned in Cuba, and I caught on quick. Buying a fishing rod and reel with tackle was not in the budget. We took a yoyo (Cuban hand reel) and wrapped kite string around it. Then we used a D size battery as a lead weight, punched a hole through the top of the battery with an ice pick and tied it to the string with a hook at the end.  It wasn’t much, but to a 5-year-old it was the best outfit around, and I caught fish. In fact, I remember my first fish was a puffer from the shore of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

That December, a friend of ours took us to Clearwater to visit Howard the Trader, a closeout marine store. I still remember we paid nine cents for a box of 100 Eagle Claw hooks. There were hundreds of boxes scattered on a big table and we bought at least four boxes of different sizes.

Christmas was coming and I could hardly wait. All I could think about was getting a real fishing rod and reel. I knew deep inside this could not happen, but it didn’t stop me from wishing.  I prayed to God please bless my family for Christmas and make sure Santa read my letter I had sent to him.

Well, Christmas Day arrived and behold I got a fishing rod–and not just any rod. It was handmade for me by my Uncle Manuel. He made it from a broom stick that he had taped one end, sanded it and put on guides from an old rod someone had thrown away. To me it was the most beautiful rod I had ever seen. He used a multi-colored thread on the guides, and the butt was wrapped in nylon twine and covered with clear varnish with clamps for a reel seat. The reel was a used Ocean City my uncle traded for some mechanical work on a neighbor’s car.  One last thing my parents had bought me was the fishing line, a box of hooks, some real lead sinkers and my own small tackle box.  I did not know it, but my parents had given some money to my uncle when we visited Howard the Trader earlier in the month to purchase these items.

This might not sound terrific but, for a 5-year-old boy from Ybor City, it was my best Christmas gift ever.

December Fishing Report: Fishing gets a little trickly in December. It all depends on the weather. If cold and water temperatures dip into mid 60’s or lower, the sheepshead action goes crazy with the big mamas moving in from the Gulf into the deepwater rocks and jetties of Tampa Bay. Live medium shrimp is your best bait.  The speckled trout action turns on hot and heavy on the deepwater flats and potholes around the mangrove edge.  Artificial baits are your best bait for them. The use of Pro-Cure Shrimp Scent, just a drop or two, will increase your catch.  My favorite method I call the Deadly Duo; the Four Horsemen float with a leader just long enough to keep the artificial just above the grass and my favorite artificial lure, the Saltwater Assassin Lit’l P & V SW in green or brown glass minnow color. On bright days, try the Lit’l P & V SW in OP.NT. Glow/Lime tail.

Capt. Sergio Atanes, Host of Fishing Adventures Florida TV show airing on YouTube, Waypoint TV, Carbon TV, Outdoor Action, and Angling TV.  Owner of Charter business covering the west coast of Florida with over 135 captains on staff.  For information contact Capt. Sergio at (813) 973-7132 email: