The Tampa Bay Times
Avoid the heat. Start your day 2 or 3 hours before sunup. Lighted bridges, marinas, and docks are magnets for anything that feeds on shrimp, crabs, and baitfish. Underwater lights and lights close to the water draw plankton which attracts baitfish and then predators. Pick an area that has a good current flow. Locations close to Gulf passes are ideal. Multiple lighted docks in a small area mean that you will be fishing more than running in the dark to another destination. At our first location, we frequently use only our bow mounted electric motor to move to nearby docks while the one we were fishing needs a rest. Returning in 15 or 20 minutes will allow time for the feeding activity to resume. Be very familiar with where everything is in your boat. Avoid clutter that interferes with fishing efficiently which can also become a safety issue. Visit your chosen nighttime destination during the day to familiarize yourself with any navigation or casting hazards. Trout, reds and snook will be your primary targets. White is the color of choice for flies that imitate baitfish choosing patterns that duplicate the size of bait visible in lighted areas. 8 or 9 weight rods with weight forward floating lines and 9 ft leaders that have a 20-pound tippet with a 30-pound shock tippet will prevent cutoffs and abrasion from snook. Smaller tarpon will be around and will take your offering. After setting the hook well remember to move the rod toward the fish when it frequently jumps to prevent line breakage. As sunup occurs and dock lights go out, head to the Gulf beaches or islands to wade fish for protected snook. Remember to walk the sand and look in the trough close to you for snook. The sun behind you and good polaroid glasses will improve visibility. Another option is to look for tarpon rolling as they move along the beach occasionally as close as swim markers. Deep sand holes in flats near passes will be productive as the water will still be cool.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico charters Fly Guy in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpatdamico.com and (727) 504-8649.