July is one of the hottest months of the year; no reference to the catching aspect is implied or intended in that statement. I recall two years ago getting off to wade an area and glancing at the water temperature on my GPS screen. It read 92 degrees. Boy, that water was steaming hot! Immediately, we got back on the boat and went in search of cooler water. This scenario will play out this month repeatedly during the hottest parts of the day. Fish will retreat to deeper areas as soon as the water temperature gets uncomfortable for them.
Summertime is when a water temperature gauge becomes essential. Knowing the correct temp (lower than 85 degrees for me) may help guide you to the fish. July tides run to the low side on average, which makes finding fish easier, especially when you pay attention to the water temperature and concentrate on deeper holes. Keep in mind, fishing early in the morning and late in the evening, when boat traffic is lighter, can also increase productivity.
Redfish have become a bit scattered recently, hopefully the drop in tides will cause them to school up and become easier to catch again. Keys to redfish success this month will include fishing in deeper, cooler water and fishing during periods of strong tidal movement. Redfish will use what I call fish highways that lead them in and out of a particular body of water. The incoming and outgoing tide determines where they will be and whether they are coming or going. If you can place yourself at the right place at the right time (major and minor feeds), chances are you are in for a good bite. Gold spoons are always at the top of the list of redfish lures. The old reliable KWiggler Ball Tail in plum/chart is another great lure. Small topwaters can also be very effective when they’re feeding aggressively.
We are catching good numbers of solid trout up to twenty-four inches. Some of our best action has been coming from sandy bottoms with scattered shell along the ICW and around spoil islands with hard bottoms when the tide is moving. The larger fish tend to be found lower in the water column. We usually rig our KWiggler plastics on 1/8-ounce jigheads but the 1/4-ounce is sometimes better for getting the lure down in the current. Working lures slowly near bottom works especially well when they’re not feeding aggressively.
Our topwater bite has improved significantly over the past month. All our surface plugs are currently rigged with single replacement hooks to combat the floating grass problem we face every year during summer. Treble hooks will clog almost immediately and shut down the side-to-side action of the lure.
I mentioned trout slicks last month and this pattern will continue through July. Look for the smaller slicks, less than two feet diameter, with a sweet, melon-like smell. I like to approach slicks from upwind and concentrate my casts all around the area seen to be producing them. The more fresh slicks you spot on the water, the greater the number of fish feeding in the area, and the better the bite will be.
We are starting to see better flounder numbers, even without targeting them specifically. Most of these incidental catches have been off sandy flats near drains. Currently, the ICW has been holding fair numbers, with the East Cut probably your best bet for finding them. The edges of the old oilfield cuts on the flats have also been giving us a few. Most anglers lack the patience to target flounder but once you get them figured out it can be rewarding. One thing is certain, you have to fish slowly and methodically. I like small curly-tail baits the best and I always make sure to carry a net when targeting them.
I have to say I've been seeing record numbers of anglers and boaters on the water recently and it follows that caution, commonsense, and courtesy should be practiced as much as possible. Whenever possible, use the ICW when traveling from place to place and keep a safe and courteous distance when cutting across other angler’s drifts and wades. The same applies when launching your boat. Dimming your headlights as you back down the ramp to launch and having the boat ready beforehand is always the best policy. Disposing of trash properly and washing the fillet table after cleaning your catch are responsible actions that too few follow as carefully as they should. Don't be that person.Here’s wishing you a safe and enjoyable summer fishing season, and please remember to handle small fish carefully. Today’s little ones are tomorrow’s breeders and trophies!