Summer of 2016 is approaching and with that the fishing is really going to heat up. Yes, the water quality could be better, but the lagoon systems are still thriving and the fishing is still great. Yes, it can be a little more difficult to locate fish at times, but when you do find them they are ready and willing to eat. I usually spend a little time running around first thing in the morning to locate decent concentrations of fish that push around as I move past. I also like to focus on areas that still have plenty of grass. It seems that the fish are more concentrated around these areas.
There has been an abundance of shrimp on the grass flats, and when the fish are actively tailing you will see a lot of shrimp trying to get away. Unfortunately, the amount of grass in the lagoon has greatly decreased over the past few years due to the brown algae bloom inhibiting its growth. We are all hoping that the lagoon systems can make a full recovery in the next few years to come. Efforts are being made to address the water quality conditions and hopefully they will have a major impact in the future. Oyster and grass restorations are in progress let us hope that it’s not too late. The water quality is not where it needs to be, but I am starting to see signs of improvement in certain areas. Do not let all this discourage your from fishing here. The fishing is still first rate and the fish are as healthy as ever.
Summer time redfish fishing has been excellent as of late and this is also a great time to target the big bull redfish. Look for concentrations of finger mullet as they will continually increase in numbers throughout the remainder of the summer. If you see nervous bait, that is a good place to start fishing. With the poor water clarity it seems as if the fish are not pushing as much as they typically would when the water is clear. That is why I have been concentrating on areas that are holding more bait. If the water level drops look for the fish to push into deeper water just off of where they would typically be holding.
Look for the bait fish along the deeper edges of sand bars and fish the side that is holding the greater concentration of bait. The redfish have been tailing a lot lately but they only have been doing so for a short time in the morning unless they are not being pressured. Live shrimp, finger mullet, and pigfish will be your best bet to a successful day on the water this summer. The larger bull reds have been tricky to find so far but they are starting to gather in their usual areas. Live bait is a great way to catch these big fish as well as cut ladyfish or mullet. Blue crabs are also a great bait to fish for the big reds. They can be fished live or dead, whole or cut in half, either way a big redfish will seldom pass it up.
Trout fishing has been excellent as the fish big females are laden with roe and very hungry. Most of the big fish can be found close to the bars or edges of grass flats. They are also pushed up close to the shore lines that hold good concentrations of forage. Top water bite early in the morning is a great and exciting way to catch a larger gator trout. Free lining a live finger mullet or pigfish is also a sure way to get one of these big trout to bite. I have been having great luck with DOA paddle tails and jerk baits. With the darker water I like to use white or something that has chartreuse so that they can easily locate the lure.
Larger school of black drum can be found around the river systems. Throwing chunks of crab and shrimp (live or dead) will most likely produce a strike. Berkley gulps also work well and don’t get picked off by the abundance of pinfish. Try throwing a DOA crab or DOA shrimp and work them extremely slow. Try to get a cast out far enough in front of the school as to not spook the fish. They do not eat as aggressively as redfish so you must have patience and make sure you feel good pressure before setting the hook.
Now is the time to target some of the seasonal predators, tarpon. These fish are amazing fighters and display incredible acrobatics. Large concentrations of juvenile tarpon are appearing and will remain here until the water starts to cool off. Tarpon can be taken on live bait or artificial, but can be very stubborn, and once hooked even harder to land. Most hook ups have been on new penny jerk baits and live finger mullets. The larger tarpon can be found around bridges and off main channels, but mostly they are starting to cruise the beaches. If you can catch live bait such as pogeys, mullet, or pinfish and target the fish hanging around the schools of bait fish. Keep in mind that some fish may be staying deep, so be prepared to have something that can put your bait elevated just off the bottom.
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