Visiting anglers to Florida are often surprised to find out that fishing can be very good in the heat of summer. The key to the good fishing is the abundance of forage that is present. Hordes of small bait fish flood the shallow grass flats. This in turn attracts the game fish. However, there are some adjustments that anglers must make when fishing in the heat of summer.
The primary challenge when fishing in summer is obvious; the heat. Anglers need to avoid the intense heat in the middle of the day and focus on early mornings and evenings. These are the times of day that fish are most active as well. Successful anglers optimize their time on the water by concentrating on these high percentage “windows” in the weather.
We use a lot of live bait here in Florida. Using cast nets, the bait well is loaded with hundreds of 2” to 3” bait fish. These are used as both bait and as chum to attract the game fish in close to the boat. However, catching bait takes a bit of time. One strategy that has worked very well for me on my fishing charters in Sarasota, Florida is to take a two-pronged approach to maximize the limited fishing time before it gets too hot.
Adjust Your Bait to the Conditions
I start off my charters at first light casting artificial lures. The number one bait by far is a lead head jig with a soft plastic grub body of some kind. These lures are very versatile and effective; they catch most of the species in Sarasota Bay. ¼ ounce jig heads are most often used. 3” to 4” bodies that mimic shrimp or bait fish work well.
The jig fishing technique is pretty simple. Anglers simply cast the lure out ahead of the boat as it drifts across an area of submerged grass. The jig is worked back to the boat using short “hops”. When fish are seen actively working on the surface, a fast, steady retrieve works best.
This early morning bite can last thirty minutes or several hours, depending on conditions. If it is cloudy with a little breeze and the tide is good, fish will hit throughout the morning. Conversely, bright sun and no wind will shut them down. In either case, once the jig bite slows, it is time to switch to live bait.
Bait fish are usually easier to catch once the sun comes up. This is another reason for the strategy of starting off with lures. Schools of bait fish can be seen “dimpling” on the surface and are usually easily netted up. If bait fish are difficult to catch, anglers can purchase live shrimp at local bait shops.
Don’t Be Afraid to Chum
Chumming with live bait fish can be extremely productive. The boat is anchored over grass in 6′ to 8′ of water. Then, live bait fish are tossed into the water behind the boat. If game fish are around, it won’t take them long to find the easy meals. Once they start popping on the “freebies,” hooked baits are cast out, with hookups soon to follow.
Even though I guide in Florida, this strategy of casting lures early while fish are active and then slowing down with live bait as it heats up will be effective anywhere!