August in Southwest Florida means hot sticky days, plenty of rain and often thunderstorms. If you don't mind working around the weather the fishing is often pretty good and competition from other boats is scarce.
Redfish are becoming more consistent as summer progresses; most are legal size averaging 20 to 25 inches with a few oversized fish going over 30. Look for good fishing on days with extreme high tides; this is the time to fish the baits deep under the shade of the mangroves. Floating a silver dollar sized live pinfish or pilchard under a cork or soaking dead bait, including cut ladyfish, pinfish and mullet, are all excellent redfish baits. These redfish are tight under the mangroves on the higher stages of the tide. It's important to keep the bait as tight to the mangroves as possible. Cut bait often makes a better choice than live under the bushes, as redfish are scent feeders and fresh cut bait oozes plenty of stinky aromas.
By the end of the month schools of large reds should begin bunching up on the flats for their fall run.
Surprise! With all the rain water flowing into our waters you never know what you might catch. Pictured is Jessica Canarecci visiting from South Bend, Ind., with a large, fresh water gar fshe caught near Bokeelia. The gar was hooked on a live pilchard in Charlotte Harbor on a fishing trip with Capt. Bill Russell.
There's still opportunity to hook into some big summer trout over the grass flats. They're not thick, as is often the case in spring, and undersized fish are mixed in, but there are still a good number over 20 inches. Look for the larger trout in areas of open water where sand bars separate deeper water from 3 to 6-foot deep grass flats. Schools of bait fish are concentrated in these areas and trout, along with Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish and small sharks, are working the bait schools. Grass/sand or mottled bottom inside or near the gulf passes should also hold trout and other species during the summer rainy months. Also, don't be surprised if a tarpon joins the party. They will become widespread throughout our waters and will inhale a small bait just as quickly as a large one. Sharks are also a possibility, from small to large; they will be attracted to any fish feeding activity.
The mangrove snapper bite should continue strong throughout the inshore and near shore waters. Look for them schooled up around structure with good water movement; this could include any of the gulf passes, docks and jetties, bridges, piers and natural or man-made reefs. For bait, live shrimp, pilchards and small pinfish, plus small cut bait with a small circle hook and 20 to 25-pound fluorocarbon leader is a good choice.
As the heavy release of fresh water continues from Lake Okeechobee, fish may be on the move. Areas with higher salinity levels often yield the best fishing. Areas in mid and upper Pine Island Sound near the gulf passes come to mind.
This month will also give us some glass calm mornings, a great time to run offshore. Closing out July, there were good reports of both red and gag grouper, plus snapper. Gags were found in depths as shallow as 25 feet, and a combination of both were common in 60 to 80-foot depths. Watch for birds and troll the area for Spanish mackerel, bonito and possibly a king mackerel. When the afternoon sea breeze kicks in, expect thunderstorms to develop. It's a good idea to get on the water at first light and back at the dock early, ahead of the storms.
Use the weather to your advantage and fishing can be good during the hot month of August. Our inshore water temperature can change quickly, give us three or four days with bright sunny skies and the inshore waters quickly get hot and the bite can slow. A couple rainy days with limited sunshine and the water will drop several degrees; this can trigger very good fishing.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.