The Tampa Bay Times

By Ed Walker

Hints of fall fishing are starting to appear along the Suncoast. There have been sightings of  mackerel, ladyfish, bonito, tarpon, and jacks hammering pods of tiny minnows all the way from Johns Pass to Boca Grande. Soon the entire South West Coast will be teeming with striking fish. In some areas, big tarpon spice up the action exponentially. . 

To find the fish, simply drive down the coast a half mile off the beach and look for birds. As you get closer you usually get an idea of what kind of fish are attacking the minnows.  Each has a particular type of splash as strikes. Bonito often show up as a white wall of foam and they charge the bait schools side by side across the surface.

These feeding frenzies can provide also provide opportunities to catch speedy ocean fish on fly fishing tackle.  An ideal set-up is an 8 weight outfit, rigged with a floating or slow sinking line, and a leader of 30 or pound test fluorocarbon. Since the target fish are already worked into a frenzy, you do not need fancy flies. Anything shiny that resembles a small sardine will do the trick. They key is casting it in exactly the right place. For fish like bonito, casting to the perimeter of the school seldom works. If the fly isn’t right in the churning foam of the frenzy it wont get a bite. This can be tricky since they move so quickly and sink and rise often. You must keep the boat moving and try to be in position when the frenzy fires up. Its classic “run and gun” which can be awesome when it all comes together.