Although the weather was hot, as one would expect in July, the full (super) moon brought us great tides and at times very good fishing.
If you just want to have fun while relaxing, the beaches are the place to be. Large numbers of snook are roaming the surf feeding on huge schools of bait and are a sight fishermen's dream. The water is clear and at times the fish are so focused on the bait pods it's been pretty easy to get close enough to make an easy presentation.
Most of the snook are running 22 to 26 inches, but there are much bigger ones. Free lined pilchards, small pinfish, 1/8 ounce white bucktail jigs and a variety of small white flies all got action. Look for the fish right off the edge of the beach in the surf. Remember snook are catch and release only. Trout to 20 inches and mangrove snapper were also hooked with the same baits along the beach, preferring areas with some type of submerged structure
While Courtney Morris of Bokeelia fought this big 30-inch redfish, her friend, Danny Nguyen, cheered her on. The red was caught on cut bait and safely released in Pine Island Sound. They were fishing with Courtney's dad, Ed Wentz.
Bait balls off the beach are also attracting Spanish mackerel; look for birds and rocketing mackerel from a few hundred feet off the beach out several miles. Further offshore from 10 miles out, king mackerel up to 40 pounds were hooked on live baits over structure. Many anglers are reporting more sharks than usual offshore, plus some large tiger sharks in 100 to 150 depths.
Red grouper of legal size were found in depths beginning at 70 feet out to 100 feet plus. Live pinfish, grunts and squirrelfish work best for the reds, plus a few big gags. Lane and mangrove snapper were also hooked from the same depths, but the daytime bite was a little slow, assumed due to the big moon.
Inshore, the mangrove snapper bite was strong throughout the area with widespread reports of limits of the tasty fish. Look for them around oyster bars, creek mouths, Island points, rocks, docks and bridges. The best bite is when the tide movement is good, with the exception of the Passes. Generally, fishing the passes anglers prefer fishing the last stage of a tide, through slack, and the beginning of the next stage. Why, because with the strong tides with the big moon it's near impossible to keep a bait near the bottom. The water movement is much slower during this time allowing for controlled drifts to keep baits near the bottom where the fish are.
A few redfish reports came from Pine Island Sound, with fish to 26 inches reported at the north end near Big Jim Creek, and fish to 29 inches further south near the power lines. Cut ladyfish or mullet, live pinfish with the tail clipped off, and Berkley Gulp baits were the best bet.
Trout reports were off and on; plenty of undersize fish but larger ones in any numbers were often a challenge. Some of the better action came from grass flats and points inside the gulf passes, and grass/sand areas over the northwest side of Pine Island Sound.
We all know it's hot and if you are working too hard to catch fish, it's just not enjoyable. A great option over the summer is to load up the family and head to one of the beaches. Fish a little, swim a little, but basically take it easy and relax. There are plenty of fish along the beaches to keep the anglers busy and a beautiful beach and water for everyone else. Need I say more!
Have a safe week and good fishin'.