What's hot: Certainly not the tides. We are between full and new moons this week, so the tides in the Tampa Bay area are slow and long, which makes it difficult to target fish that like fast-moving water. Fishing beaches and passes that have sandy rather than rocky edges will produce good catches of pompano this time of year, either by boat or on foot. The cooler, drier air makes morning walks a pleasure on the beaches and once you see areas where the waves wash up sand fleas, there will be pompano close by.
Techniques: Light tackle is best as you are not casting into deep water; you will be casting parallel to the beach right where the waves break. Allow your hooked sand flea to roll in with the wave, then retrieve it slowly, holding your rod out to keep the bait in the strike zone. The bite is a quick, sharp tap, and pompano will swim off with the line. Once hooked, these fish are tough fighters and make for great table fare.
Tips: Sand fleas can be found digging down in the sand as soon as the wave subsides from the beach. They are almost the color of the sand, so you need to look closely. Use your hands or a sand flea rake to dig them out. Even if you are not fishing that day, you can freeze sand fleas and use them on another trip or in another area. North Beach at Fort De Soto Park is a great place to find sand fleas. Try the northernmost tip (Bunces Pass).
Jackie Otto can be reached at Betts Fishing Center (727) 518-7637 or firstname.lastname@example.org.