Avoid the heat like the fish do. Charters that begin at 3 a.m. have been very comfortable and productive. Lighted docks and bridges have held redfish, snapper, ladyfish, a few snook and many large trout. A few docks have baby tarpon, but most bridges that have a lighted area around fenders hold tarpon of 5-80 pounds.
Tactics: Our routine varies. Since we prefer to fly fish, being able to cast well will mean more hookups, especially with larger fish. A beginner will start at lighted docks that hold large numbers of ladyfish and trout. Small white flies size 4-6 usually duplicate the baitfish size attracted to the plankton-filled illuminated water. Since the fish are visible, they will follow the fly and the "take" is easily seen. Freshwater trout fisherman will have to forget setting the hook by lifting the rod and learn to strip set the hook, ensuring a much better percentage of success. Then move to docks that hold redfish or baby tarpon. Over the slot reds are usually fished with a heavier 9-weight fly rod. When snook are spotted, they have been avoided to help their recovery. A 10-weight rod is used for tarpon with a straight 40-60 pound fluorocarbon leader to prevent breakage. White Keys type tarpon flies in size 1/0 will work perfectly.
Tip: Keep rod tip low with larger fish and apply pressure in the opposite direction they are swimming to keep them away from barnacle-encrusted structure.
Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.