Summertime fishing in full swing
If you haven’t noticed, summer is here. With temperatures reaching the upper 90s you may want to plan your fishing adventures a little differently. This is especially important if you pan to fish from shore or on the shallow grass flats from your boat. Remember, the Florida heat not only affects us, it also affects the fish. Most fish we target on the flats prefer water less than 85 degrees. Therefore fishing at high noon on a hot summer day probably isn’t the best time to target shallow-water species. The solution to this problem is to start fishing earlier. Water temperatures are cooler in the morning. If you’re going to catch live bait, plan on being in your bait spot ready to throw the net, the second there is enough light to see. If you’re fishing artificials, the same concept applies. Be at your spot and start fishing at first light. A few degrees in water temperature can make a world of difference.
Another option is to just start fishing at night. Fishing at night can have other benefits other than escaping the heat. For one, there’s less pressure on the fish at night since there are fewer anglers targeting them. Second, if you’re targeting snook, they generally feed better at night anyway. The same applies foe spotted sea trout. At night, small baitfish and shrimp are attracted to lights that shine into the water. For this reason snook ad trout will lurk on the outskirts of the light darting in occasionally for a midnight snack. Not only can you see the fish feeding under the lights, but they’re generally more apt to eat your bait if you present it right.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier says with the hatch bait beginning to appear so are the Spanish mackerel. “We’re not catching great numbers yet,” says Kilb.” But they should be here soon.”
Also around the pier, fishers are catching some over-slot redfish. Try catching small blue crabs and cutting them into pieces to use for bait to catch these reds. If they’re there, they’ll usually eat a piece of crab.
Capt. Mark Johnston of Just Reel Fishing Charters is fishing Sarasota Bay targeting redfish and trout using live shiners for bait. “When I’m using shiners for redfish,” Johnston says, “I like to crush them a little. The reds seem to hit them better that way.” Johnston is catching slot redfish under docks and on shallower flats in the bay. Spotted sea trout are being caught on deeper flats using free lined shiners and also shiners under a popping cork. Again, slot fish have been the norm with a few fish in the 24-inch range. While targeting spotted sea trout, Johnston is catching Spanish mackerel and ladyfish as a by-catch. Lastly, Johnston is targeting tarpon just off the beaches of Anna Maria Island with good results. Fish in the 60-100 pound class have been the norm.
Ken Davis at Rotten Ralph’s on the Historic Bridge Street Pier says
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says beach action is picking up with reports of spotted sea trout and snook being caught in the morning and evening. “Look for them running the beach,” Keyes says.
Best bait for either species is a live shiner, although a small ladyfish put in front of a big snook is a sure-fire way to get yourself into the fight of a lifetime.
In the backcountry, fishing the deeper flats is resulting in spotted sea trout, Spanish mackerel and ladyfish. Both live shiners and artificials are producing good numbers. Redfish seem to be a little scattered, although slot fish are being reported.
Moving offshore, the snapper bite is beginning to pick up. All varieties of snapper are being brought to the docks. Red snapper are being caught in water depths of 120 feet and deeper. Mangrove snapper are being caught in as little as 50 feet of water. Live shiners and frozen sardines are working well. Also take some live pinfish for the bigger red snapper.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters says he’s been working overtime this last month chasing the schools of tarpon that have invaded the beaches and passes of Anna Maria and Tampa Bay. Howard’s preferred method of fishing for silver kings is to anchor up-tide of the rolling fish and chum with shiners to draw them to the back of the boat. On a recent charter Howard had the tarpon swimming behind and below the stern gulping down chummers resulting in 16 hookups.
Howard has been targeting speckled sea trout and they’ve been “coming over the rails” in good numbers and size. Howard reports landing fish over 20-inches on most of his inshore charters. Howard suggests using a de-hooking device to increase the chance of survival for the smaller trout.
Shiners have gotten small recently so it is imperative to down size your hooks and leader. Howard has gone from using 2/0 Owner live-bait hooks to 1/0 or size 1 Owner live-bait hooks. “If necessary put two shiners on a hook,” Howard suggests.
“Looking forward, the tides for next week should provide for some excellent fishing with big high tides early and very low tides in the afternoon. These tides will concentrate the fish in the potholes and in the passes,” Howard says.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing a variety of species ganging from grouper offshore, to trout and reds inshore. On a full day offshore, Girle says they caught and released tons of red and gag grouper. “Most of the fish are under slot,” Girle says,” But its non-stop action out there.” Girle is catching mangrove snapper to 16 inches as well as plenty of Key West grunts.
Moving inshore, Girle is wading the flats of Sarasota Bay for redfish and trout. “Target the schools of mullet to find the reds,” Girle says. “The redfish are scattered but the ones we’re catching are ranging from 15-26 inches.
Girle is still fishing tarpon along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Live shiners, threadfins and crabs are working well. Fish are averaging in the 100-pound class.
Capt. Logan Bystrom is targeting tarpon along the beached and in the passes both north and south. While fishing the beaches, Bystrom is using live threadfin herring as an offering to entice wary tarpon to bite. The water on the beachside of Anna Maria has been gin-clear in recent days. To aide in stealth, Bystrom likes to use 50-pound fluorocarbon ties to a 6/0 Gamakatsu 4X Strong hook. Also while bait fishing the beaches, Bystrom opts to use a 9-foot casting rod paired with a Shimano conventional reel for better leverage while fighting big tarpon. “You get optimum performance for casting when you use a weighted cork,” Bystrom says. “It’s perfect for the type of fishing we’re doing right now.”
Fish on the beach are averaging 80-120 pounds with bigger fish being caught occasionally. “The fish are a little scattered right now,” Bystrom says. “On the backside of the full moon, the fish tend to head south.” On an up-note, Bystrom predicts the tarpon will school up again around the new moon.
Jeff Medley at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers says Spanish mackerel are showing in good number and they’re big too. “all of the hatch bait is starting to appear,” Medley says. “Which in-turn brings in the Spanish Mackerel.”
Small spoons, crappie jigs and Gotcha plugs in the 5/8-ounce size are producing good numbers of fish in the 18-25 inch range. Of course, with good numbers of Spanish mackerel come good numbers of shark. Lemon, bull and bonnethead sharks are being caught on small chunk of Spanish mackerel fished on the bottom. Make sure you have stout tackle. These sharks are ranging from 3 to 6 feet in length. Pompano are still biting in the shallower waters around the beginning of the pier. Love’s lures pompano jigs tipped with a piece of peeled shrimp are working great.
Cobia are still hanging around the end of the pier, although the numbers of fish being seen are dwindling. Get out there while they’re still there and throw a pinfish or threadfin herring in front of one and see what happens. Night fishing around the Skyway piers is producing mangrove snapper. For best results, drift small shiners under the pier and hang on.
On a final note, I want to wish Gabrielle Medley, Jeff’s daughter a happy 8th birthday. Keep catching those Spanish mackerel off the pier Gabrielle!
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