Updated: Jan 23
Most saltwater anglers look forward to the warm summer months to experience some awesome fishing both inshore and offshore. This time of the year is super popular for species such as tarpon and snook as they migrate and begin spawning. However, fishing is great for many species during this season for both inshore and offshore anglers. Redfish and trout are just as abundant in the same areas as some of these snook and tarpon. In the later summer months redfish will even begin spawning and schooling up in massive schools on grass flats. There is a large amount of bait on the flats, along beaches and passes, which invites the predator fish for feeding frenzies. How could an angler possibly have a bad day on the water with such perfect fishing conditions, right?
Well to answer that question it’s normal for an angler to miss the bite and have a rough day out on the water during the summer. I have experienced this many times throughout my angling life and the more time I spend on the water the better understanding I have towards these outcomes.
As summer progresses the air temperature continues to rise as well as the water temperature. The Gulf Of Mexico and the inside of certain bays really heat up making fishing conditions tough. Just like the winter time when the water is cold and the fish are lethargic the same concept applies when the water is too hot. When this happens the bite can be really tough and the fish could either be chewing or be completely turned off. I’m not saying it’s impossible to fish and catch your target species but sometimes you're really going to have to work hard for these fish. You have to have a lot of patience and figure out how these fish are feeding. No matter how lethargic or lazy a snook, tarpon, trout or redfish is acting they still have to eat! Me personally, I will try to stray away from using artificials. I say this because you're either going to have to hit the fish in the nose for a possible bite or make the fish work which normally they won't even consider. However, there are a few main bait choices I would use in a scenario like this and thats live bait and cut bait on the bottom. A lot of captains and anglers chum super heavily with pilchards to create a feeding frenzy and almost wake the fish up entirely. This works quite often and you could easily turn a slow day into a great day. When throwing these pilchards you have to decide whether to free line them under the mangroves or throw them on a cork bobber but of course it’s wherever the fish are feeding. Either way is very simple, if you're fishing directly underneath the mangroves it is best to free line your bait and give it the freedom and natural look. If you're fishing away from the mangroves I find it best to use a cork bobber to keep your bait out of the grass and in the strike zone. To continue, some captains and anglers like myself will chum with cut bait as well. I think this method is very efficient in that the fish don't have to work hard at all to enjoy a nice meal. If I notice the fish acting sluggish or lazy on the flats ill find an area mixed with potholes and grass and I will chum the area either with cut pins, cut pilchards or cut threadfins. This creates that smell in the water and it congregates the fish to your area slowly but surely. When fishing this way ill simply tie on a knocker rig with a smaller circle hook and split shot just so it stay towards the bottom.
There are other factors to consider when the heat waves start to really warm things up. Some of these include time of day, water depth, moon phase and tides. Taking water depth into consideration is important if it’s super hot out. During the summer fish will find deeper areas of water because most of the time it is cooler for them. So as an angler using google earth can be your best friend and help you locate areas with potholes, cuts, troughs and ledges. Also bridges and passes become a hot commodity for bait fish and of course predator fish.
Tides are important because they're going to show you how the fish are acting on either an incoming or outgoing tide. Outgoing tides will most of the time carry warmer water from bays and creeks out to the ocean. This warmer water will generally move fish around to deeper spots and areas. Not to jump ahead to my next point but outgoing tides depending on the time of the day produce killer action. Now with an incoming tide, fresh, clean and cool water will be pushed in by the ocean. Fishing mid day I found that incoming tides produce a good bite because of this. The incoming water cools certain spots and areas down and can fire the fish up.
Jumping ahead to why the time of day is one of the most important factors. This is because during early morning and late evening trips the weather is a lot cooler then during the day. the rule of thumb is said to be how the conditions make you feel, the fish also feel the same way. Not sure if this is true but I always feel more cooled off early morning or late evening. A lot of action happens early morning and late evening. Tides are still important during these times of the day but you have a better chance of producing a lot of fish regardless of the water flow. A lot of my fishing trips will take place during these time slots. More so in the evening because I can fish sun down and then once I run out of light I can do one of my favorite things and fish dock lights. Dock lights have grown to be a very popular and awesome way to target juvenile tarpon, snook, reds and trout. It is rare to pass by a dock light without seeing fish on it. These dock lights are setup for success because they attract bait fish which then attracts the predator fish. It is important to match the hatch for what these fish are feeding on at these lights tho. If the baits are small throw your fly rod and tie on a minnow and I guarantee a lot of success! If you throw your spinning rod I recommend having options such as the mini mirrodine, the rapala x-rap size 4 and my new favorite the Zman Slim Swimz. Throwing small presentations works very effective. I don't normally throw live bait but when I do I use pilchards, more on the smaller side and ill even throw some live shrimp in the mix!
My last and final factor are the moon phases. Not many anglers take what moon phase it is into consideration when planning a trip on the water. This is very vital because fish feed lighter or heavier depending on the phase of the moon. For example, right now during the summer we experience these massive full moons. These full moons bring very high incoming tides as well as very low outgoing tides. This means there is a lot of water movement on either side of the tide allowing fish to be more lively when feeding. Most importantly most fish species feed super heavily early in the morning or late in the evening during a full moon. The snook, which is a nocturnal feeding fish are extremely active a few days before and during a full moon phase. Fishing towards the end of a full moon can make for a really tough bite because these fish were up all night feeding the past few days. Best case scenario for me would be fishing early morning and day post full moon, when the tides are really good! The closer I get to a full moon I will change my tactics and fish in the night time because I already know these fish are going to be active and feeding on everything! however, each moon phase provides its own challenges when targeting different inshore species. The tides change with every phase, the fish activity during the day and night change, the time of day the fish are most active, and even the location of fish species can change.
If the weather is hot and the bite is slow make sure you change it up! Take into consideration some of these tips and I guarantee you can produce a ton of fish and work around the heat. If you have any questions or concerns please don't hesitate to contact the TwinTails family!