July is here and this summer already has been extremely hot. We’ve had little rain and long hot days and, as a result, surface water temperatures have reached up to 94 degrees.
This hasn’t slowed the fishing but has changed the approach we take and what species we target. Summer fishing can be downright awesome.
Mangrove snapper have started to show up in good numbers throughout the bay. These feisty critters can be found around residential docks, artificial reefs, wrecks and bridges. They’re a very fun fish to catch and make for great table fair but they require some smaller bait and light tackle.
Snapper are suckers for small greenbacks, which are not hard to find during the summer. Small bait can be found on just about every flat that runs along South Shore this time of year but don’t forget to bring a 10-foot, ¼-inch mesh bait net. Anything bigger and you’ll have hundreds of bait stuck in the net. Another good tip that really makes a difference is to downsize your leader to 20-pound Ohero fluorocarbon.
For all you flats fanatics who just can’t break away to the deeper areas in the bay, you’ll have to get an early start and fish the days where the high tide coincides with early morning. This will be the coolest part of your day, and the water will also be somewhat cooler.
There are still some schools of redfish on the outer flats of Bishops Harbor down to Joes Island. Bait as mentioned previously is everywhere but it’s small. Don’t try to waste a whole day looking for bigger bait. The fish will eat the smaller stuff.
The key is to downsize your hook to a No. 1 Daiichi circle hook, and I like to use Cajun Thunder Back Bay floats to help get a longer cast. The water is pretty dirty, so you can get away with 30-pound Ohero fluorocarbon. Look for schools of mullet, and the reds won’t be far behind.
Snook continue to spawn throughout the summer and seem to be running a bit behind schedule. They’re still showing in good numbers on the outer flats but are not very eager to eat. This time of year the bigger snook will react better to cut bait versus live. It’s an easy meal and most big snook are lazy due to extreme water temperatures.
Snook are still on the rebound and have not fully recovered, so make sure you handle every fish with care to ensure a safe release. Also, snook season is closed through September so any snook, regardless of its size, must be released. I recommend that everyone go above and beyond that and just release every snook – even during the open season. There are plenty of great eating fish out there to keep. Let’s give the snook a break.
Jason Prieto is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 727-9890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.