Flatties of Tampa Bay
Capt. Sergio Atanes
Tampa Bay offers a smorgasbord of species to fish for. One species often overlooked is flounder.
These fish can be found around sandy or muddy bottoms along the edge of grass beds and channels but many are caught by accident while drift fishing. These doormats average in size from two to four pounds with many tipping the scales at eight pounds. They are also string fighters with great food value.
Although flounder can be caught all year long, I find the fall is prime time for catching doormats. October, November and December are my favorite months to catch them, when other fish are slow to strike the flounder are always ready for an easy meal.
I recommend several techniques that have worked for me over the years.
Try drifting along the outer edges of grass beds or alongside of channels with structure or rubble, this method works best in the two to six foot depths. Hook a small piece of shrimp or a medium live shrimp on a quarter ounce jighead and bounce it along the bottom. In deeper water (6-10 foot), I recommend a three eighths of an ounce jighead.
If you are fishing artificials, a three eighths of an ounce jighead with a three inch paddle tail works during cold fronts. DOA shrimp are also good baits. Anchor on the outer edges of grass beds or deep water channel and cast up current. The secret is to bounce the jig along the bottom with a slow retrieve. Flounder will only travel short distances for food, so the presentation must be close.
Dock fishing is another good way to catch large flounder. A quarter ounce sinker setup as a Texas rig with a glow bead between the hook and the sinker seems to be the ticket for the bigger fish. It’s my belief that the glow bead just draws attention in the dark bottom and turns the flounder on to strike quicker. Seawalls that have a quick drop into sandy bottoms with grass patches are also key spots.
Flounder tend to sit and wait for their bait so try fishing the side of the bridge where the tide is moving bringing food to them. Here I use three eighths of an ounce sinker setup with the glow bead. I cast along the edges of the shoreline and work the shrimp back towards the drop.
As far as tackle is concerned, my favorite rod is a seven foot TFO (Temple Fork Outfitters) medium light action rod in the 10 to 17-pound test range and a medium sized spinning reel like the Quantum Smoke 30. Fall months usually mean windy days so I prefer using Fins Windtamer 15-pound test braided line. It’s one of the best lines I have found in helping to keep wind knots down to a minimum. Also, most of my big founder fishing is done around docks and braided line seems to be the most proficient at being able to horse the bigger fish out.
Some of the locations that I like to target these fish in are as follows:
Old Tampa Bay
Big Island cut west end of Howard Frankland Bridge.
4th street Bridge on incoming tide.
St. Pete side of Gandy Bridge just outside the rocks.
South end of Picnic Island the rock piles.
In Tampa Bay I target them at the following locations:
Edges of the rocks along the St. Pete Airport.
Sandy areas on the outside of the artificial reefs east of the Vinoy Resort.
I will also fish Terra Ceia Bay, Bird Key and Flounder Pass for them.
Flounder offer a change of pace and taste, so don’t overlook the doormats of Tampa Bay. Please e-mail any questions concerning fishing or tackle and I will be glad to respond.
Good fishing and tight lines.
Captain Sergio Atanes is a native resident of Tampa and has been fishing the waters of Tampa Bay and Boca Grande for over 45 years. He is owner and operator of S & I charters which is one of the largest charter booking services on the west coast of Florida with 55 professional captains on staff. Capt. Sergio Atanes can be reached at (813) 973-7132 or www.reelfishy.com