by Capt. Greg Stamper
What a contrast in water quality this year in comparison to last. This has so far been exactly what we needed to allow fish stocks to redeem themselves and ensure future success of our estuaries. The continuation of closures to redfish, snook, and trout has already produced the first batch of future studs for Southwest Florida. Pilchards and other baits continue to be found along the beaches and in the back bays, all that were extinct last year with the severe red tide.
So, we’ve had a lot of rain throughout the area especially during the first two-thirds of August. This is typical in Southwest Florida and is a pattern we expect. This makes fishing in back bays, rivers and creeks, as well as the beaches predictable. The salinity levels of areas with inland runoff will be much more brackish, and even sometimes almost fresh water. Likewise depending on wind and tides there will be areas of clear saltwater, dark run off water, or a mix. So, depending on what you’re targeting, you can use these differences as references for specific species. Likewise, if your using live baiting you’ll need to consider what bait you’ll be taking where.
Juvenile tarpon will continue to be a top billing throughout the area. Tarpon will be found mostly in the back bays, rivers, and creeks and can be targeted many ways. Best bet for the tarpon is early morning, but if there’s overcast, you’ll most likely get an extra hour or two. Fly fishing is a cool way of catching these 10-50lb fish and is a great experience for the customers when they are rolling. Live bait is an option as well, but salinity levels can be low in areas, so shrimp and some baits won’t survive there. Mullet, pinfish, and creek chubs are examples of low salinity baits. There’s larger local tarpon mostly out front and there will be for months. These fish are typically 80-120lbs and can be targeted in the usual fashion, crabs, threads, and cut baits.
Redfish should continue to be great, as the numbers caught last month were good. A lot of rat reds have been caught throughout the area along with some studs mixed in. The closure of redfish for a year has made a big difference and should make next year’s fishery outstanding. The snook have also followed the same pattern as we are finding good numbers of juniors through the entire Southwest Florida area. Snook and reds have been about everywhere we fish from docks, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines. Some of the local passes that aren’t very wide have been holding some 40 plus inchers. Artificial lures have been working well when moving down shorelines such as DOA terror eyes or CALs along with the big swim baits. When we’ve been staying closer to the beaches, we’re using white bait as it’s plentiful, both freelined and on corks.
The nearshore bite continues to be good. Cobia, permit, gag grouper, sharks of all sizes, and mackerel have been plentiful. There are guys going out at night 30-50 miles and crushing the mangrove snappers. If you’re going at night I’d recommend getting to your spot before the sun goes down, anchor up, and chum like crazy for an hour. Doing this usually brings them up, right behind the boat and you can limit out in less than an hour. Cut baits of sardines has taken tops recently, but pinfish aren’t far behind.
Capt. Greg Stamper