Summer's heat and thunderstorms will have an impact on the times we go fishing this month. I like to start a little earlier in the day and finish before the afternoon storms roll across the state. This keeps me dry, a little cooler and helps me avoid the lighting strikes that come with the afternoon boomers.
There was an important decision made this past month, one that will impact not only the South Shore area but also the entire west coast of Florida.
On June 12 the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission voted to open snook harvest on the west coast of Florida starting Sept. 1. I'm not so sure that decision is in the best interest of the snook recovery.
From observations I've made on my charters, my belief is that the snook recovery is working but not yet complete. Although the snook catches are up for this past year we're still not catching the numbers we caught prior to the 2010 season - not by a long shot.
My fear is that on Sept. 1 every shore charter captain and salt water recreational angler on the West Coast of Florida from Tarpon Springs south will go out and try to catch their limit of keeper snook. The limit is 1 per person so long as the snook measures from 28 to 33 inches, and you must have a snook permit. I'm of the opinion that's the exact-size fish - next year's spawners - that we should be protecting. We'll be putting an enormous amount of pressure on this species.
Don't get me wrong. Like many of you, I enjoy catching and occasionally having snook for dinner; however, I think the FWC is a little premature on the decision and should wait until the next snook stock assessment to be conducted in 2015. I, for one, will ask my customers not to keep any snook, but if they must I will be placing a one-fish-per-boat bag limit. I encourage other recreational anglers and charter captains to do the same.
This species is much too important to Florida as a game fish and certainly much more important than to be on a dinner plate. If you catch a snook, congratulations, take a picture of it and carefully return it to the water. Just because the commission says we can keep snook doesn't make it right. We have to make our own decisions. I'm sharing mine.
The trout bite has been relatively slow this past month, and I expect that trend to continue throughout the summer. Look for trout in the deeper flats and around deeper structure where the water is a little cooler. I also expect to see a lot smaller trout as we head into the deep summer patterns. Shrimp or sardines will be the bait of choice. Try fishing trout on shallower rock piles located in the open bay waters with a depth of six to 12 feet. You just might be surprised and find trout in spots you wouldn't normally think of.
South Shore's grass flats should be holding schools of redfish. However, June was somewhat of a disappointment. I don't see that changing in July. A good technique for targeting redfish is to wait for a high tide and toss your bait under the mangroves. Try using cut ladyfish on a jig head. The water is a little cooler in the shade of the mangrove and sometimes just a degree or two make all the difference.
Mackerel have been off the wall in June and I expect to see this trend continue through the rest of the summer. I like using white bait both on a hook and as chum. Using three, extra long No. 1/0 long shank hooks and 50-pound leader will help improve your catch ratio but still expect the toothy critters to eat through the leader.
Tarpon started showing up late this year but the season is now in full swing. The early morning bite has been good but better in the late afternoon with an outgoing tide. Pinfish, pass crabs and big threadfins are the best bait. Expect to see some of the tarpon move north this month into the northern areas of Tampa Bay. They're great fish to catch so enjoy them while they're here.
Danny Guarino is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 956-2010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.