by Captain Tom Van Horn
There’s no doubt about it, summer has arrived in Central Florida and the mid-summer doldrums are currently upon us. It's also the time of year when tropical weather systems and offshore water temperatures are unpredictable. Just when you think you've got the fishing figured out, a summer squall (tropical system) will blow in and kick up the seas, or the cold water Labrador Current (upwelling) will chill bottom water temperatures and shut down the seaward bite. Setting all these possibilities aside, many opportunities for angling adventure exists both inside and outside.
Near-shore, kingfish will be the staple on the reefs and wrecks in 70 to 90 feet of water, with a mixed bag of three, wahoo, dolphin, and an occasional sailfish, thrown in. The preferred method for targeting these species is slow trolling live bait (pogies) on steel stinger rigs in the areas of the Chris Benson, 8A, and Pelican Flats reefs. Currently the water temperatures are starting to drop.
On the Port Canaveral buoy line and along the beaches when the water is clean, an assorted beach bag is available with smoker kings (large king mackerel), silver kings (tarpon), sharks, and gigantic jacks (school buses) all available at any given time. To target these species, focus your attention in areas of bait concentrations. This past week, large tarpon and sharks were located between Patrick AFB and Satellite Beach. As the month progresses, these fish should begin moving north along the beach to their favorite summertime haunt into the bight of the Cape.
In the Port and inlets, snook, Spanish mackerel, flounder and mangrove snapper number should remain steady. To target the flounder and snapper, try using DOA Shrimp on a ¼ to ½ ounce jig head in the areas of structure and along sandy drop-offs. For flounder or snapper cast the jig as close to the structure as possible without getting snagged, and let it sink to the bottom. Once it's reached the bottom, slowly drag it back letting it rest every foot or so. When jigging for Spanish mackerel or other toothy critters, use the same jigs, but retrieve it quickly to avoid getting cut off by not allowing the fish to strike the line.
Inshore, July is one of the best times of the year to catch redfish in shallow water. Water conditions remain good in most areas of the lagoon with some signs of algae blooms beginning to show up. Redfish schools have already started forming up. In deeper water, look for ladyfish and small trout to be shadowing schools of bay anchovies (glass minnows) under clouds of feeding terns. These feeding frenzies are great fun, especially when fly fishing using a top water popping bug. Additionally, Calm conditions are ideal for paddlers wishing to venture back into the No-Motor Zone, where tailing redfish make great targets for both fly and spin anglers.
On the St Johns River water levels have increased due to recent rainfall setting the stage for the catfish spawn. As the water levels and volume increase, catfish move upstream out of the big lakes into the creeks and river. When targeting these fish, try fishing in the deeper bends on the bottom and step up your tackle size to safely manage these larger fish.
Remember, as the water temperatures increase, dissolved oxygen levels decrease, so it is important to step up your tackle and line size to facilitate a shorter battle, and to revive your catch completely before releasing them.
As always, if you have any questions or need more information, please contact me.
Good luck and good fishing,
Captain Tom Van Horn