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On the Water: Fishing during the hot month of August

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Aug 4, 2021

Mangrove snapper fishing should be good through the hot days of August. Laurie Russell of Matlacha with one of many nice snapper caught on a near shore reef in 30 feet of water. She was fishing with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

We closed out July with extremely warm days and this will continue into August as we are in the meat of summer. The water temperature is very warm, often in excess of 90 degrees by mid-day. Most days the better fishing comes over the morning hours as the water is at its coolest. If you don’t mind the heat or potentially dancing around thunderstorms, fishing is often pretty good.

Summer days often give us flat calm seas over the morning hours, perfect runs offshore. Our coastline is dotted with man-made artificial reefs, many well within sight of land and GPS coordinates available to the public. If you are an inshore fisherman, it’s a nice change of pace to make a short run offshore, especially during the heat of summer when the inshore water temperatures are so high.  

Fishing around the reefs, you never know what you might hook into. Everything from tasty snapper to huge goliath grouper live on the reefs. To get the most out of the day, you want an assortment of tackle that can handle the fish you target and any surprise guest. Obviously with snapper you do not need super heavy tackle, the lighter the better for the best action. But, if you want to attempt to pull a big goliath grouper from his home you will need a rig extra heavy — we’re talking 200 to 400-pound line. And many times, that’s not heavy enough.  

In between snapper and goliaths is the possibility of Spanish and king mackerel, cobia, permit, barracuda, snook, grouper, sharks of all sizes, plus many other species. A common method is anchor up, deploy a chum bag and fish several different line class rods and baits for a variety of fish. If you are venturing farther offshore, American red snapper is now closed but greater amberjack and grey triggerfish season is open in Gulf waters. 

Inshore seatrout fishing should be good through the summer. Look for larger trout over areas of open water where shallow sand bars transition to deeper grass flats from 3 to 6 feet deep. Schools of small bait fish are concentrated in these areas. Trout, plus Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish and sharks are located around the bait. Diving pelicans, terns and gulls often give up the location of schooling bait. 

The mangrove snapper bite should continue strong throughout the inshore and near shore waters. They gather 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 are the ticket, plus small pieces of cut bait. Snapper have excellent vision, a small circle hook with 3-4 four feet of 10 to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader will put the odds in your favor. Snapper are hard fighting for their size and one of the absolute best tasting fish in our waters. If you have visitors over the summer, snapper can make a great target and reward you with a fine dinner.  

Good numbers of snook are roaming the surf along the Gulf beaches throughout the summer and are a sight fishermen’s dream. Most snook are males under 26 or 27 inches, but there are much bigger females mixed in. Pilchards, herring, small pinfish, small bucktail or mylar jigs, and a variety of small white flies are top baits. Look for the fish right off the edge of the beach in the surf or near any type of submerged structure.

Remember snook are catch-and-release only, quickly return them to the water. Trout, mangrove snapper, mackerel, whiting, pompano and maybe a flounder are a few of the other species you may hook into.  

Make sure and stay up to date with fishing regulations by visiting www.myfwc.com. Also, upload the Fish Rules app on your phone. It has current regulations with pictures to help identify fish.  

With the water so hot, if you are catch-and-release fishing, it’s imperative to follow a few guidelines to ensure a safe live release. When a fish is hooked, apply pressure and make the fight as short as possible. Only remove a fish to be released from the water if necessary. Spend a few minutes with the fish in water to allow it to regain strength before swimming away. Don’t feed tired fish to opportunistic dolphin. If they are a problem, stop fishing and wait for them to leave or pick up and go fish another area. Between the warm water and lowest levels of oxygen of the year, fish are fragile, if we take a few steps, we can help to ensure a successful release.

Whatever type of fishing you choose, be smart, drink plenty of water and watch those thunderstorms.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, contact Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-410-8576 (call or text); on the web at www.fishpineisland.com; or via email at gcl2fish@live.com.

Have a safe week and good fishin’.

As a lifetime resident of Matlacha and Pine Island, Capt. Bill Russell has spent his life fishing and learning the waters around Pine Island and Southwest Florida, and as a professional fishing guide for the past 23 years.