Beating the heat. It is hot out there, and not just for us but for the fish as well. The middle of the day has brought 90-degree-plus temperatures and definitely has an impact on fish activity levels. Now this does not mean you can't catch fish in the middle of the day, but it makes the morning and afternoon feeding times even better.
Afternoon tides. The afternoon outgoing tides that we have right now in our region are a great way to get on a consistent bite, especially for sharks, mackerel and cobia. I have had much success in the past week fishing both the slack and outgoing tides. I spend the slack tide and first part of the outgoing hunting for cobia, then as the current starts to pick up, I anchor up and change gears.
Sharkin' it. I like to fish for sharks and mackerel at the same time, using the mackerel I catch as shark bait. I deploy two or three shark rods out the back of the boat and into our chum slick at varying depths, while using one or two other rods rigged with 25-pound fluorocarbon and a 2/0 long shank hook to catch mackerel. The most common sharks you will encounter are sharpnose, reef, blacktip, bonnethead, bull, nurse, and hammerheads. I like to be a little overgeared when shark fishing, and while my tackle might be slight overkill for 70 percent of the sharks we hook, when we get that big bull or hammerhead, our odds of getting it boatside go way up. I make extra-long braided/coated wire leaders with 6/0 to 9/0 circle hooks and 30- to 60-pound braid main line.
If you chum, they will come. The bay is full of "good bottom" to anchor up and chum. Find a patch of hard bottom, artificial reef, channel ledge or hole to anchor on. Our region is full of sharks and mackerel so if you create a good chum slick, you will quickly attract both. Store-bought chum blocks are a good start as they quickly release oils and small particle chum to the upper parts of the water column. I also like to get a net full of threadfin herring to chum with. They not only make a good mackerel bait cut or alive, but you can also chop them up and toss them into your chum slick. Fresh-caught mackerel is one of the best shark baits you can get, and there are many ways to use them. You can cut them into strips lengthwise, drop back half of a mackerel hooked through the forehead or fish them live.
Matt Santiago can be reached at (813) 205-2327 or CaptainMattSantiago@gmail.com or online at FishingGuideTampa.com.