August is upon us. The weather is hot, the tropical activity in the ocean starts picking up, and those of us who spend our life on the water keep an eye on the sky. The tropical weather season in Florida usually begins in June and this year was pretty much spot on with a few exceptions here and there. The mornings start out calm, barely a breath of flowing air. This leads to glassy water conditions and stunning sunrises. As the day progresses, sometime around 11 AM, the first clouds start to appear; fluffy, cotton-candy like clouds. The wind starts to pick up a little, giving relief from the heat. It may blow from the west or the east, depending on which seabreeze kicks in first. This is when a knowledgeable guide starts watching, seeing which way the clouds gather and start to form the line of showers that will come in a few hours. The final warning sign is when the wind stops, almost like hitting a switch. A warning that you have about an hour left. Then the wind comes from the opposite direction, the clouds go from white to gray and then to black. It's now time to be off the water and enjoy the success you've had. These storms will produce heavy rain, gusty winds, and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning. Just another average day in summer time Florida.
This routine weather is a major benefactor for our estuary system here. It provides a much needed buffer to a system that becomes hyper-saline during times of drought. It cools the water, helps set off the spawning of crabs and shrimp, increases the growth of seagrasses and shoreline grasses, and brings out the colors of our natural, wild flora on the spoil islands. What does all of this have to do with fishing? Basically, without getting into the life cycle of every living creature within the estuary, it turns the fish on. More importantly, it makes them somewhat predictable in their movements and their feeding activity; of course, there are some exceptions to every rule, but here I am talking the majority of the time. Specifically here is what it means for me: launching just before sunrise, fishing until about noon or one, then coming in and relaxing. Wait for the storms to pass by (sometimes they can be a little pesky about doing this) and then heading back out for the late afternoon, evening bite. For clients, this means the average trip is a half day or 3/4 day, instead of a full day. What can one expect from a day of fishing like this?
The destination of our run is determined by what the client wants. Summer means I have snook, seatrout, tarpon and redfish that can be targeted. While some of them are located next to each other, I do have very specific locations that I look for each species, for the best chance of success. Recently, the majority of my trips have targeted snook first thing in the morning. Snook are one of my favorite fish to catch. They crush baits, fight hard, and test your angling skills. They are beautiful fish and are great for new anglers. Although they are great eating, we haven't kept a snook in more than a decade; they are far more valuable as a gamefish than they are a single dinner. Here, Legendary Angler Bob Clouser shows off one of the many snook he caught this morning, using his famous Topwater Clouser Minnow. Snook love topwater during the early morning hours. Whether you like fly fishing, or spin fishing, there are certain topwater lures that snook cannot resist.
Tarpon, aka the Silver King, have also been high on the target list. August and September are the hottest months for my big tarpon. These fish are the things that dreams and sometimes nightmares are made of. They can be extremely persnickety in taking offerings, but when they do, it is awesome. If you are not familiar with the Silver King, imagine a fish from 50 to 200 pounds that is more explosive than a barrel of dynamite. When these fish feel a hook pierce their lip, their initial instinct is to jump from the water, twisting their bodies into unbelievable shapes, shaking their heads like a wet dog, gills rattling like a rattlesnake,doing anything they can to throw that hook. If you can keep them attached during this explosion of energy, they settle down and will start testing your endurance and strength. Proper fish fighting skills are needed to land these fish fast, giving them the best chance at revival and release; that's what I'm there for, to give pointers on fighting them and wearing them down, instead of wearing yourself out. The big ones will test you in every way and never give up. This year we've jumped several fish from 80-120 pounds; no one has kept one attached long enough for great photos. If you are not quite up to the task of the big ones, we have hordes of smaller fish from 5-30 pounds. These fish are my favorite tarpon to catch. They spend the majority of their time in the air, and can be landed quicker, without exhausting the angler. The small ones are perfect for lighter fly rods and they are terrific on ultralight spinning gear.
To round off the summertime fishing list, we throw in our most popular fish in the area: seatrout and redfish. While these fish are available year round, summer offers opportunities for exciting sight fishing that isn't always available. For trout, we hunt them in the shallow grass flats, where the difficult part is seeing them, before they see you. The fish I target are bigger ones; not the schoolie size that like to hang along drop-offs. These trout are over 20" and most are over 25", with some pushing 33"-35". They are wary fish, always keeping a keen eye and lateral line out for trouble. They are also voracious predators. Trout this size will eat anything that crosses their path, if they haven't been spooked. Contrary to popular belief, they do not mind the heat and can be found swimming through the grass, their backs exposed above the water, during the middle of the day. Locating these fish requires slow poling and patience. Every movement in the water has to be checked, as they can ease across a flat without pushing the slightest wake. This year has been a little more difficult than the last couple, as we have unfortunately lost some of our most prized grass flats. But, the fish are still here and we have caught quite a few. Redfish are probably the most "famous" of our fish. These bruisers like summer too. This is the time of year they will start feeding during early to mid-morning, and then again in the late evening (again, their are exceptions for moon and tidal conditions). I love summertime for redfish. They tail, they cruise along the shorelines backing (exposing their backs above the water as they search), and when a offer is made correctly, they engulf it. The challenge is presenting your offering without spooking them. Some locations are easier than others, but it requires some precision and stealth to be consistently successful. Z-Man fishing products makes some great soft plastics for these conditions and the fish love them. For my fly anglers, I have a whole selection of custom tied flies that work great. So, no matter your fishing style preference, I've got you covered.
Take some time to come enjoy some of the great angling opportunities that we have! We can search out you favorite species, or you can challenge your angling skills by trying to catch a Slam or Grand Slam (3 of the above species or all 4 in a single fishing trip). No matter what you decide, you'll have a relaxing, enjoyable day and I will work hard to make your day successful.
Call me or click the link to send me an email. I want to provide you with the best trip you can have and will be happy to answer any questions and provide available dates.
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