As we welcome in July, summer is in full swing bringing hot, humid days and the possibility of thunderstorms almost every afternoon. That does not mean fishing is poor, it can actually be very good if you plan accordingly.
Look for the best fishing early and late in the day when temperatures are coolest. Try to coordinate the better tides with this part of the day. Of course, thunderstorms are a strong possibility on any given day - fishing the morning tides is a lot more predictable. However, fishing after an afternoon thunderstorm can be very good. If the sky clears a few hours before the sun sets, this is a great time to hit the water.
Redfish and mangrove snapper will be in the sights of many inshore anglers, both thrive in the warm summer temperature and fishing for both should only get better as the month progresses. Anglers will score with redfish using two very different techniques: first, and this is generally a very early or very late in the day strategy, is sight fishing. The second method, much easier and also very productive, is fishing under the mangrove islands over the higher tides. Not as much stealth is required here, fish are a lot more settled with the added water over their head, plus they feel the security of the mangrove roots and overhangs.
Roy Kostel of South Fort Myers won the battle with this oversized redfish. It took a live pinfish and was released in north Matlacha Pass with Capt. Bill Russell.
While mangrove snapper will be caught targeting redfish under the mangroves, anglers targeting the tasty fish will look to areas with structure. Inshore this includes the gulf passes; Redfish, Captiva and Boca Grande all have rocks and ledges that attract snapper and other fish. Also, bridges, docks, piers, jetties, artificial reefs and any other submerged debris piles are sure to be likely snapper hotspots. In the gulf, most of the near shore artificial reefs and underwater structure will hold mangrove snapper and some big ones. Live shrimp or small pilchards are like candy to snapper.
If you are looking for something more challenging, there are plenty of sharks around to test your will. Sharks ranging in length from 3 to 10 feet are roaming inshore waters and often in water shallower than you think. Look for sharks in areas holding other fish. If you have a spot that's good for mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, trout, etc., chances are good sharks are nearby. Make sure to use a wire leader and fresh bait always works best. It's a good idea to leave sharks in the water and either unhook or cut the leader; it's safer for both fish and angler. We have a lot of different shark species with different regulations; some are illegal to remove from the water and some have size restrictions. If you plan on inviting a small tasty blacktip home for supper, do your homework and learn to identify the different species.
While the height of tarpon season peaked last month, July is still a great month to hook a silver king if you are targeting them or not. Don't be surprised if one blasts a shark bait or a big one blows up on your lure while targeting trout on the flats.
Offshore, expect glass-calm mornings followed with a sea breeze and early afternoon thunderstorms. Make a plan to be on your way by first light and back to the dock before the storms for productive offshore fishing.
There's a lot to catch in July without much competition from other anglers. Fish the best tides if you can, prepare for the heat and watch for those thunderstorms, and you will learn it's a great month on the water.
Have a safe July 4th holiday and good fishin'.