Theres no doubt, we have had some wild weather this entire season but we have had some unbelievable days on the water as well! Over the past couple weeks we have seen some incredible tarpon fishing, crazy shark action, and a solid bite for inshore brutes like inshore gag grouper, large jack crevalle, and a few cobia. Local favorites like snook, trout, bluefish, spanish mackerel, and flounder also made a decent showing.
First things first, TARPON! Up until this recent bout of flooding rains that have kept me off of the water for nearly a week, we were experiencing a solid influx of the majestic “silver king” into the area. It was commonplace to literally see thousands in a day for about a two week period!! After things calmed down following tropical storm Andrea (Which nearly ruined a t.v shoot for “North American Fisherman” that I was hosting) the main migration of tarpon moved in and they settled into a routine. The problem was that so did the big sharks. The tarpon were plentiful to say the least but were constantly on edge due to the ridiculous amount of bull-sharks along with the odd hammer-head that were patrolling them. As if they weren’t hard enough to catch already, once a tarpon was hooked it often wouldn’t leave the giant, tightly packed school it was with presumably because of the sharks. This caused many break-offs and pulled hooks as the line bounced off all of the other fish. As the tarpon tired and left the school it would often get chased by one or more often multiple sharks which would also cut the line. It was a tricky scenario but there were a few magical days when the sharks left the tarpon alone and they went off! In fact I had an all time high 19 tarpon on during an 8hr trip only a couple weeks ago after hooking up 11 times the day before all with the same group of incredibly lucky and exhausted guys. There should still be a decent number of tarpon around after this deluge of rain exits the area and I am looking forward to getting back on them!
If you really want to hurt yourself, dropping a large bloody jack or other fish anywhere near the Egmont channel is sure to draw the attention from some true beasts. One of my clients recently made that mistake and eventually reeled in a 450lb 8ft+ bull after a grueling 45 min battle. There are plenty of “smaller” sharks in the 3-6ft range that will only leave you with minor back pain and soreness and are more fun to catch in my opinion. Black-tips have been numerous. In that 3-6ft size range they make blistering runs along with the occasional high flying jump or two making them my favorite to target. The smaller ones are excellent eating too but don’t tell anyone. They should be plentiful for the next few months into the fall.
Gag grouper season finally opened up for recreational anglers on the 1st of July and today was the first day my clients got to bring home some tasty fillets in months (I would have been on them on the 1st but it poured the past couple days). The good thing about all of this rain and cloud cover is that it has cooled the water temps down from 86-87 degrees to around 80 degrees which is much more conducive to a good grouper bite. Find some deep structure nearly anywhere in the bay, lock your drag, drop a big frisky live bait down, and hold on tight!
There is plenty of fishing to be had just off of the beach for mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, etc…. if you want some non-stop action. The snook bite both day and night has been as hot as the temperature some days near area passes and bridges on large live bait. Topwater fishing for trout and redfish on the flats first thing in the morning and again at dusk has been decent as well.
Expect much of the same types of action to continue over the next few weeks barring a major weather change. Its going to get hot so I start doing most of my charters first thing in the morning or at night. Night fishing is a great way to beat the heat and is quite an interesting experience if you’ve never done it. All we do is hop from light to light all night. Some lights literally hold hundreds of fish. Till next time, catch a memory.
I always tell my clients and fishing buddies alike that the key to good saltwater fishing is stable weather conditions. When conditions have been relatively calm for a few days with seasonable temperatures and barometers that are neither too high nor low, the fish get into a routine and will likely do nearly the same thing on the same tide day after day. Most people don’t have the luxury of waiting until the perfect conditions to plan a trip with me but if you can hit it during some stable weather, your chances of success go up dramatically.