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Where Did They Go?

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On: Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 10:03AM | By: Captain Sergio Atanes

Deion 'Prime Time' Sanders with a Tampa Bay Redfish

Where did they go is always the big question every year around August. There’s no doubt that the fishing gets a little harder this month, but is it the water temperature or the rains?

I think it’s a combination of both. Some years we have a dry August and water temperatures get over 90 degrees and fish run and hide to escape the heat, while other years we get too much rain and the salinity drops below the fish tolerance levels. Or could it be lack of bait fish on the flats; and where did the bait fish go?

This year has been rough on bait fish (greenbacks). They came in as expected in March and by mid-May they were gone off the flats. If you worked hard enough and put in the time you might have caught enough to fish with or, like I had to do several times, buy some shrimp as backup.

Going on the assumption this August will be no different from the previous ones, here are some tips on improving your chances on catching some fish.

• Fish early and consider using artificial baits as this gives you a chance to be on the mangroves at daybreak when the fish are going to be most active.

• Catch your bait (greenbacks) the day before and put them in a bait motel. This works if you keep your boat at a marina or if you live on the water.

• Try fishing at night under dock lights; shrimp work great at night and it’s cooler for both you and the fish.

• Change your method this month and try fishing for Mangrove Snapper, Grouper, Key West Grunts, Seabass, and Cobia inside the edges of the ship channel in Tampa Bay.

• Pompano, Sheepshead, Black Drum, and Tarpon can be found under the Howard Frankland, Gandy, and Skyway bridges.

I am planning on fishing mostly at night around docks that have underwater lights, as they seem to draw more quality fish. If you have greenbacks, that’s fine, but medium to large shrimp will work better. I use a 7-foot rod around docks and on the flats I prefer 7.6-foot rod for casting distance. A 1/0 hook with 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and 20-pound braided line works well just to be able to turn the fish around when they decide to run under the docks. This gives me a chance to turn them around, but even then you can expect to lose some.

Bridge fishing at night is a little different, and tackle needs to be a little heavier because you never know what lurks in the dark waters under the bridges of Tampa Bay. I caught Tarpon, Black Drum, Trout and some pretty big Redfish. I suggest you use light spinning tackle for the trout, and let your live bait drift from the dark into the light for Trout and Tarpon. For bottom fishing, I prefer medium tackle with a large spinning outfit or conventional reel with at least 30-pound line and 40-pound leader. Cut fresh blue crabs is candy for black drum and live threadfins for the Tarpon. Position your boat up current and under the bridge as this allows you to fish the pilings for big Reds and Black Drum. With the light tackle you let your bait drift from the side of your boat past the shadow line into the light where the Tarpon and Trout are roaming.

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