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

Finding Old Fishing Spots Again

Sometimes, we get carried away trying to find new fishing spots and we forget the old ones that got us started.  February usually is cold and still has plenty of negative tides which are great for finding new spots and reuniting us with some old ones. Whether you are a shore fisherman or using a watercraft, there are plenty of places to fish that are often overlooked.

Take a few minutes and make some notes of old areas you used to fish and give them a try.  The biggest problem I see, and I have lived in the Tampa area all my life, is the increase in population and number of boats in the Tampa Bay market–over 103,000 registered boats as of last count.

So, let’s get down to nitty gritty of where to start fishing in upper Tampa Bay. You have Rocky Creek that offers great fishing in the Winter. Then there is Double Branch which is loaded with trout and small black drum in the potholes.

When fishing the Howard Frankland area, look at Big Island Channel on the northwest side of the bridge. There is plenty of trout, sheepshead and redfish action, especially around the sunken barge. Yes, there is an old barge sunk along the shoreline in front of Big Island.  The charts show one foot or less of water depth, but the cut between the island and interstate is over 10 feet deep.

In the Gandy Bridge area, the rock piles in front of marine reserve on the northeast side as you enter the bridge hold a little bit of everything on high tides. The channel leading into the power plant should have plenty of silver (white) trout.

The St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport rocks always hold nice sheepshead, redfish and flounder. Use live shrimp with a 1/0 circle hook and a #4 split shot about 3 inches from the eye of the hook.

The Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa, with its warm water, pleases the snook, reds, trout and sheepshead.  Fish the rocky shoreline and the pillars of the bridges.

The Apollo Beach Power Plant is another hot spot for pompano, cobia and trout early in the morning until about 10 am. The colder the weather, the better the bite.  Sharks tend to hang out just outside of the mouth of the outlet of the channel.  There is a small rock jetty along the side of the power plant. This is a great spot for redfish with an incoming tide.

Little Manatee River has never let me down in February.  Just about every species can be found. Fish the area’s drop-offs and cuts with deeper water. This area is best fished with a falling tide.

Port Manatee channel can keep you busy with gag grouper and mangrove snapper. Light tackle with cut bait or medium live shrimp works best. The lighter the tackle the more bites you will get.

In the Fort Desoto area, look for the old bomb holes from the early days when the area was used as a practice bombing range. Some of them have filled in over the years, but many are left–some as deep as 15 feet. The colder the weather, the better the bite. The trout, especially, tend to migrate there. Mullet Key shoreline is excellent for wade fishermen or kayakers. There is a nice drop off that tends to hold fish all year long.

Live shrimp is my go-to bait this time of year.  Medium size is perfect. My set up is a 7.6 medium action rod with three feet of 15-pound fluorocarbon leader, 15-pound braided line and a 3000-size spinning reel.

My tackle suggestions:

Rods: OKUMA SRT Inshore Elite Medium 7.6 feet.

Reel: OKUMA ITXCB 3000.

Line: FINS Windtammer 15-pound braid.

Leader: OHERO 15- and 20-pound fluorocarbon.

Hooks: OHERO Trident 1/0 circle.

Engel 19-quart live bait cooler.