Mansfield Report: July 2016

Capt. Tricia
Mansfield Report: July 2016
Kelly Forester with a recent spoil bank 8-pounder. CPR!

July is the beginning of our hottest weather and this is when you really need to get on the water early. Concentrate on areas where wind or tidal movement creates stacking areas for bait and ambush points for gamefish. Early morning winds are typically light and many believe this a good thing, but honestly it is not. We need wind to cool and oxygenate the water.

However, not everything about July's wind is a godsend. Prolonged strong wind tears shallow-rooted seagrass loose from the bottom that soon decays and finds its way to the surface. When it gets bad enough anglers want to tear their hair out.

Floating grass scattered on the surface and suspended in the water column can be very difficult to get a lure through. Luckily, when the wind picks up, usually midday and afternoon, it begins to form into narrow windrows where we can cast into relatively clean water that lies in-between. The scientific name for these rows is Langmuir Spirals and you can Google it if you want to learn more. Science lesson aside, it is pretty easy to figure out that casting between the rows of the floating nuisance will help keep your lure clean and you will get more strikes.

Another really neat aspect of the windrows is the way they attract bait. Between the natural attraction of higher oxygen levels within the spirals (Google it) and the cover the floating grass provides, we often see small crabs, shrimp, and baitfish darting just below the surface.

Redfish can often be seen suspending under the windrows, picking off the morsels that try to hide there. Many times I have lined my anglers between the rows with great success. One would be surprised at the quality of some of the trout we catch using this tactic.

Spoils and shallow windward sandbars are some of my favorite structure types to target in July. ICW spoils allow trout and redfish the luxury of shallow nighttime feeding areas with quick deep-water daytime refuge. Look for spoils and sandbars that have bait stacked on top or along the edges. There's a good reason the bait is shallow more times than not it's the presence of a serious predation threat.

If I had someone requesting a quality trout in July I think I would definitely start on the spoils at first light. Larger trout seem to feed predominantly at night during summer and first light offers a shot at them before they retire for the day. First light is also generally the lowest-wind period of the day and bait skittering in the shallows is easier to spot when it is calm.

Hopefully, you will see a slick now and then to show where at least one fish is feeding. A fresh slick can be a major confidence boost, enabling you to hang in there and work the area thoroughly. Knowledge of where the fish are feeding and confidence to grind it out are the best recipe for catching trophy-quality fish in any season more so in summer when the window of opportunity can be very narrow.

As the sun rises, so does the water temperature and this can send trout deeper. Locate the deeper grass beds and potholes, this is where many big trout will spend their day as long as boat traffic doesn't run them off. Stake your claim by spreading out while wading and hopefully you will not get buzzed.

As winds increase with rising air temperatures, I start looking for color changes along slightly deeper drop-offs on the east-side shorelines, both north and south of the East Cut. Think of color changes as structure they provide excellent ambush cover for predators. Many times on midday and afternoon wades I have seen trout and redfish cruising in and out of the color change searching for an easy meal.

Gamefish follow bait and more times than not when the afternoon water temperature runs in the high-80s, you will see bait schools favoring somewhat deeper and cooler water. Always remember that redfish, especially big reds, are often found deeper on hot afternoons than you would expect to find them. This could have something to do with them following bait, maybe they're tired of being buzzed on the flats, or perhaps they just enjoy the cooler water who knows. One thing is certain though, even for a trout purist, when your string hasn't been stretched in a while big redfish can save the day.

I'm still loving my Skitter Walks and One Knockers when conditions are favorable and, of course, my K-Wiggler soft plastics. Go early, be patient, stay hydrated, and enjoy every minute.