The kids are out of school, the weather conditions are perfect, and the fishing options are endless--it must be summertime fishing in the Keys! July and August are hot months, not only for temperatures, but for tarpon, bonefish, and, especially, permit. With the exception of the occasional passing tropical system, most days start off nice, and end up with some rain in the afternoon; what we locals call our summertime weather pattern.
Snook, redfish, and tarpon can be found throughout the backcountry daily, and those anglers looking to catch dinner have no problem finding lots of mangrove snapper and seatrout. It can be a fisherman’s dream most days, with early starts and night trips a plenty--it’s summertime fishing at its best!
Over the years, I have learned to have a loose game plan when it comes to planning my days on the water. Weather is the controlling factor when fishing in the Keys this time of year. Storms can form quickly and push anglers out of prime areas full of fish; this is why it pays to have other species to target in different areas. As many of my anglers find out, I do not play when it comes to lighting. I see lighting, and I go. The last place anyone wants to be is standing four feet above the water, holding a 24 foot pole with a metal tip, when a storm moves in. Your best defense is to have access to live radar on your mobile device or GPS. Then you can decide whether to hunker down and let it pass, run to a different area, or head home. Luckily for us, there are lots of species to pursue this time of year, and lots of area to do so both day and night.
I focus mainly on bonefish, permit, and tarpon most trips, unless my clients want to target something else. I will try to encourage my clients to go for the early start--usually 30 minutes before sunrise (called by many as the magic hour)--but, ultimately, it is up to them. Remember, not everyone is as hard-core as the rest of us; some people are actually on vacation. Some days, the lack of wind and clouds can make conditions tough, to say the least. Because of this, I offer and end up doing a fair amount of night and early morning trips during these months when the temperatures are slightly cooler. Typically, these are tarpon trips, but you can catch grouper, sharks, barracuda, and snappers while targeting the tarpon.
The backcountry is another great area to fish when the weather tells you to do so. The redfish, snook, and tarpon can all be found through the shallow waters of Florida Bay. In addition to the gamefish, I have had a day or two saved by targeting big sharks in shallow water, both on spin and fly. Tarpon in the backcountry typically average 20-60 lbs., with much larger fish caught everyday, but not in as good a number as the smaller fish.
I love topwater lures in the Park, but, some days. the amount of floating grass makes fishing any topwater lure impossible. Gold and silver ¼ ounce Johnson weedless spoons are fantastic lures for these conditions. So are 5-7 inch jerk baits, colors new penny and white, when rigged weedless. As a matter of fact, all the flies I use in the backcountry have weed guards on them too.
For those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than just a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often!
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