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

Summertime Family Fun Fishing

There is nothing better than spending some quality time fishing with the kids or grandkids.  June is just the right time of year to get the family hooked (no pun intended) on fishing.

Summer weather brings many species closer to the shore and makes it a perfect time to fish many of the fishing piers along Tampa Bay on the Gulf shoreline. Two piers often overlooked right here in our own backyard is Ballast Point Park Pier and Picnic Island Park Pier, which is a public pier free to everyone. Ballast Point Pier is one of the few that has its own artificial reef built on each side of it. It’s like having your own private feeding station attracting many different species, including grouper.

Fishing piers offer a measure of safety for parents where the whole family can fish and enjoy our great outdoors, which is just one of the many reasons for living in Florida.   Seasons change and so does the species of fish that feed there. There are always the regulars like catfish, trout, flounder, redfish, snook and sheepshead that call the pier their home.

Sheepshead are a great fighting fish for their size and make a great table fare. They just take a little long to clean, due to their thick skin and scales.  Sheepshead are known for their bait-stealing abilities, but are favorites of kids to catch.  Shrimp and fiddler crabs are their favorite baits, but small pieces of cut shrimp work great using a #1 or #2 hook with a small sinker that has just enough weight to keep the shrimp close to the barnacles.  Live fiddler crabs are another bait sheepshead find irresistible, and they can be purchased at most bait shops. Or, better yet, get the kids to catch them on low tide along the mangrove shoreline and turn the trip into an adventure. I find the kids enjoy catching them as much as they do fishing with them. It gives the kids a sense of pride for catching their own bait.

Fishing with fiddler crabs is easy. Just use a small jig head, and run a hook through the outside tip of the shell. The jig acts as the weight, but make sure you buy the jigs with the smaller hook size. Some are sold for trout fishing, and the hook will be far too large to work on sheepshead.

Summer weather brings larger trout, mackerel, cobia, redfish and some snook looking to feed on the schools of live bait that like to call the piers their summer home. I find it best to use a cork, suspend the bait just off the bottom, and let the current take the bait away from the pier rather than casting. This way, you can cover a larger area until you find where the fish are stationed.  Piers with artificial reefs offer the advantage of attracting groupers, mangrove snapper and flounder and tend to hold more fish year-round.

Spanish mackerel are probably the most fun for kids to catch, since they seem to hook themselves and take off like a rocket when hooked. It’s an experience a kid will never forget and one of the species that move in close to the docks to feed on the schools of sardines around the pilings.  Smoked Spanish mackerel makes one of the best fish spreads around. Served on a saltine cracker with a shot of Tabasco sauce, it makes a super summertime snack.

June 15th I am again hosting a free kids fishing clinic held at Picnic Island Park Tampa from 9 am to noon. The first 100 kids registered will receive a Okuma rod n’ reel combo, tackle box and learn how to fish with our staff of over 15 fishing captains volunteering their time.  Mayor Jane Castor will be there along with the CCA, FWC and the Tampa Police Dive Team.  We would love to have your child attend. The clinic is open to 6 to 14-year-olds. You must register to get the Freebees.

Please send me an email to:

The kids are our future anglers. Let’s get them hooked on fishing and not drugs.

Tampa Bay Piers:

Big Pier 60 1 Causeway Blvd. Clearwater, FL.
(727) 462-6466

Gulf Pier 3500 Pinellas Bayway S. St Petersburg, FL.
(727) 864-3345

Skyway State Fishing Piers N 10501 Sunshine Skyway. St Pete, FL.
(727) 865-0668

Picnic Island Fishing Pier

7404 Picnic Island Blvd.  Tampa

Ballast Point Park Pier

5314 Interbay Blvd.,Tampa

Phone # 813-831-2112