Here we go, heading into one of the hottest months of the year and, as I predicted last month, the boat traffic on the bays has risen to perhaps the highest level many have ever seen. In addition to the normal fishing traffic, we see many family groups taking to the water and there’s hardly a weekend goes by when several fishing tournaments do not add to the crowds.
I usually begin my charters very early in the morning, well ahead of the masses showing up at the boat ramps. By customer request recently, we launched on a Saturday afternoon and I was amazed at the number of boats buzzing in every direction. My normal practice is to be at my first spot as soon as it’s light enough to fish and then seek secluded places to fish as we move about during the day. Not only are fish easier to locate before they’ve been buzzed by dozens of boats but they are definitely more willing to take a lure. That Saturday afternoon launch really opened my eyes as to how good we have it fishing weekdays.
Moving on, we are still dealing with windy conditions and no telling when it will slow down. I remember a few years back when even July was unusually windy. These blustery conditions have not allowed us to focus on areas we would prefer to fish; instead, we are fishing decent water clarity wherever we can find it.
The schools of larger trout we enjoyed in late spring are now scattered and showing up as mostly single landings. In fact, we’re actually doing better on redfish some days than upper-slot trout, which is quite a change. We find small trout almost everywhere, which is a good sign for the future, but getting into nicer keepers and upper-slot fish has been somewhat of a grind lately. One good thing the wind has given us is an increase in bird activity over mud and shell bottoms. The generous shrimp hatch this year likely plays a role in this.
Our better trout catches have been coming during periods with strong tide movement. Productive areas to wade and drift are along sand bars, edges of spoils, and the ledges of the ICW. Tracking the solunar major and minor feeding periods definitely helps swing the odds in your favor. Topwater action has been sporadic, which means we rely more heavily on KWigglers soft plastics – Ball Tail Shads in Plum-Chartreuse and Mansfield Margarita in deeper water and the Willow Tails in Turtle Grass and Mansfield Margarita where it is shallower.
After a couple of years of disappointing spring and early-summer redfish success, I am happy to report much better numbers this year. Redfish can be found in small pods on the flats and small schools are using secluded backwater areas. The sand-grass transition line in some areas is holding numbers worth targeting. Color changes in deeper water seem to be holding the bigger fish. Stomach contents at the cleaning table include mostly crabs and shrimp, which tells me the back bays on the west side, where these crustaceans are most prevalent, should continue to provide redfish action through the summer.
When the winds calm in July, which we pray will happen soon, we should begin seeing wakes of redfish as they flee from outboard noise in shallow water. Remember though, they might retreat to deeper water toward midday as the water temperature soars in the shallower areas.
Unlike the trout that have been snubbing our topwaters, the redfish are taking them readily most days. Gold weedless spoons are always on the redfish menu, as are KWigglers Plum-Chartreuse Ball Tails on eighth-ounce jigs.
The biggest surprise so far this summer is the number of flounder we are catching. Last year and the year before we scratched our heads trying to figure out where they all went, and this year we are picking several each day without even targeting them. The few times we actually targeted them lately have provided impressive numbers. The fishing grapevine says we are not alone in this.
Another welcome surprise is that our snook numbers seem to have increased over recent years. Like the flounder, we are very pleased to see this.Wrapping up, summer is here in all its glory. Remember to stay hydrated and practice boating safety and proper etiquette on the water at all times. I also want to encourage respect for the fisheries we are blessed to enjoy, for now and the future. I'm looking forward to attending ICAST in Orlando this month and promise to report on the new products that will be introduced there in future articles.