What's hot: Perhaps your fly reel. Large schools of baitfish in the shipping channel and passes are attracting some predators that are creating a feeding frenzy. There are a variety of jacks, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish, but mixed in are bonito, or false albacore, often called little tunny. These 8- to 15-pound torpedoes are a blast and very cooperative to a fly placed in their thunderous melee. The noise they make is amplified when surface feeding will be combined with squawking terns and sea gulls.
Equipment: Use at least a 9-weight fly rod with a reel that has a smooth drag and 200 yards of backing. Anti-reverse reels prevent bruised knuckles when the fish streak for the bottom. I like to have two rods rigged - one with a clear sink tip and another with a full-sinking fly line. The sinking line will get the offering deeper, where the largest fish lurk. Use a straight 4-foot leader of 20-pound hard Mason mono. Size 1 flies with white, flashlike Puglisi baitfish, Bead Butt Baitfish and Clouser minnows with some weight built in are effective. Allow them time to sink before a retrieve is begun, then strip strike and hang on.
Watch the birds: Terns and gulls will know when the school is near the surface, and under their foray is where you want to cast. Boat positioning is critical to avoid putting the fish down. Use the wind and tide to drift within casting range. Circle the fish and shut off the engine. An electric motor can then be used before waiting for them to move in.
Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.