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

September is my changeup month. I start getting away from the normal mackerel, trout and shark fishing and start concentrating on large redfish.  With luck, the weather starts to turn just enough to make fishing fun again and the sun more bearable. I do a complete changeup from my normal fishing with live bait and start using cut fresh threadfin sardines.

I look for these hard-fighting fish not on the flats, but around docks, bridges or deep cuts along oyster beds. It’s been a long hot summer and they are lazy fish looking for cooler deeper water. If you look closely at a redfish, his eyes are up high and his mouth is down. This tells you he is a bottom feeder, which is the reason why so many redfish are lost on top water plugs or using live baits. They lose sight of their prey just before the strike.

First of all, start by finding docks with moving water. I prefer the start of an outgoing tide around the docks in the upper Tampa Bay area. Second, position your boat within casting distance of the shaded area of the dock. And third, start chumming with small pieces of cut threadfin sardines.

I am now ready to fish using a 1/0 J hook or 2/0 circle hook. With clients that do not have much fishing experience I use J hooks, as their normal tendency is to pull to set the hook. However, for clients that have experience fishing for reds, I use circle hooks. I like 30-pound test fluorocarbon leader about 30 inches long, tied to 15-pound braided line using a surgeon’s knot.  There are a number of knots you can use, but for simplicity, the surgeon’s knot works best for me.  Since I am fishing anywhere from 3 to 8 feet of water and have some current, I attach a 1/8 to ¼ ounce split shot sinker to keep the cut bait on the bottom.

I find that not all docks hold fish. Some are better than others, but you will have to learn that on your own.  One thing about dock fishing is that the larger fish tend to hang around the deepest point on the dock or around any structure around the dock.

In the winter months, we have cold fronts pass through and high-pressure systems sitting on top of us. This gives us extremely low tides. That is the best time to look at the docks in your area when the tides are low and clear water exposes rocks and old pilings. I found some docks with furniture under them or rocks and other debris that was dumped when the house was being built years earlier.  Make a note about what you found and where the rocks are for the spring and fall fishing.

The big reds are waiting in the shade–give them a try.