Captain’s Corner: Massive baitfish schools present plenty of opportunities

Published September 12 2018
Updated September 14 2018

The shipping channel and most area passes are filled with massive schools of baitfish. Little tunny (bonito or false albacore) follow these smaller fish and present great opportunities for fly fisherís. A moving tide, either incoming or outgoing, gets these speedy predators active near the waterís surface. Noisy diving terns and gulls tell you exactly where the fish are. A large school of these sleek speedsters sounds like thunder as they crash bait tearing up the water. A bow-mounted electric motor is preferred to position your boat ahead of the fish, letting them come to you. If you only have an outboard, idle well ahead of the action and shut off your motor. When within casting range, cast a 9-weight fly rod with a sinking tip or intermediate full-sinking line ahead of the fish. Larger fish usually are deeper so give weighted flies a little time before starting a fast retrieve. Use flies the size and shape of escaping baitfish. Instead of one-hand stripping, place the fly rod under your arm and use both hands, moving the fly fast and putting the line in a stripping basket located in front of you. When you feel a strike, set the hook by stripping hard. Select flies with white over chartreuse synthetic hair rather than buck tail because it lasts longer. A reel with a good drag and 150 yards of backing is needed. A glove or finger-stripping guard is a good investment.

Fly fisherman Pat Damico runs charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at and (727) 504-8649.