Florida Saltwater Fishing in Summer – Pro Tips
This topic of this post is Florida saltwater fishing in summer. Despite the heat, fishing is fantastic in summer in the Sunshine State. However anglers do need to adapt and change tactics a bit.
Saltwater fishing in Florida in summer is all about taking advantages of the low light periods of the day. Early morning is generally best as the water will be at it’s lowest temperature for the day. The afternoons can be good, especially if a shower cools off the water on the flats. Finally, dedicated anglers do well fishing at night.
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Abundant bait is the key to summer fishing success
The reason for the terrific summer fishing in Florida is simple; bait, and a lot of it! The shallow inshore waters and beaches are thick with small bait fish. These vary by region, but include scaled sardines, Spanish sardines, threadfin herring, mullet, and glass minnows.
In the inshore waters on the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, larger bait fish are abundant as well. These include larger threadfin herring, menhaden or pogies, cigar minnows, ballyhoo, blue runner, and more. This abundance of bait, both inshore and out on the beaches, is the reason for the terrific summer fishing in Florida.
Fishing with artificial lures in summer
Anglers use the bait schools to catch fish, even if they do not use the bait itself. Predator species will relate to the schools of bait. Often times, fish can be seen “crashing” the bait, particularly early in the morning before boat traffic increases. The old saying, “find the groceries, find the fish” really applies.
Shallow bars and grass flat edges are prime spots to try, particularly on the high tide. The bait will usually stack up on the up-tide side of the edge or bar. Diving birds are a sure sign that bait is present. Anglers casting spoons, jigs, and shallow diving plugs will produce a variety of fish. Topwater plugs are effective and great fun to fish!
Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles and reports can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.
Fish will also be found on the deeper grass flats as well. This is particularly true when the water temperature creeps up after a few days without cooling afternoon rains. Submerged grass in 8′ to 10′ of water may be the most productive spots. A 1/4 ounce lead head jig with a plastic grub body is an excellent search lure to use to locate fish. Spoons, plugs, and free lined live baits will work as well.
Chumming with live bait is very productive in the summer
While fishing with artificial lures certainly produces for anglers Florida saltwater fishing in summer, many opt to take advantage of the free and productive bait. This requires a cast net and the ability to throw it. Net sizes vary and should be matched to the bait in the area. Large rounded live bait wells and a high-capacity pump will keep the bait frisky all day.
There are a couple of different approaches to catching bait that anglers can use. Before the sun comes up when it is still dark, on cloudy days, or if it is breezy, chumming the bait fish in works best. Yes, anglers chum for the chum! The boat is anchored in a likely spot up tide of a nice grass flat in a foot or two of water. Anglers can use commercial fish food, commercial chum bait, or homemade recipes such as mackerel and wheat bread to lure the fish up behind the boat where they can be captured.
Anglers can also simply look for the bait itself. When conditions are right, which means a flat surface in clear water, the schools of bait fish can be easy to see dimpling on the surface or flashing in the water. When the bait is thick and this happens, it is easy to load the well and a cast or two of the net. Some anglers do this right out on the beaches, where they don’t have to deal with grass in the net.
Once the well is loaded, anglers use this bait as both chum and as fishing bait. The boat is anchored up tide of a likely spot and then a handful or two of live bait fish is tossed out behind the boat. If game fish are around, it won’t take them long to home in on the free bait. Hooked baits are then cast out, and I hookup is sure to ensue. This technique can be used inshore, in the passes and inlets, and offshore over ledges, wrecks, and reefs.
Live shrimp can certainly be used as well. However, there are a couple of drawbacks. Shrimp sometimes get very small that time of year. Also, nuisance fish such as pinfish can become quite irritating as the nibble the legs off of the bait. Finally, shrimp are costly versus the abundant free bait there for the catching.
Best times to saltwater fish in Florida in summer
Mornings are usually the best time to go saltwater fishing in Florida in the summer. The water will be at its coolest point all day. Also, the waters will be undisturbed from boats or other activity, making fish a bit more active and easier to catch. A good approach is to start off at first light casting lures and then when that bite slows switching over to live bait. Days that are cloudy or have some wind will result in the artificial lure bite lasting a bit longer. Conversely, a bright sunny day with no wind can be tough to full fish on lures.
Bait can be easier to catch an hour or two into the morning as well. Sunlight on the water will get the plankton to bloom and will get the bait fish up and moving around. They are much easier to see this time of day dimpling on the surface. As the sun climbs higher, the bait fish can be skittish and more difficult to sneak up on. Many anglers, fishing guides and charter boat captains in particular, prefer to load up the bait well in the morning and be done with.
Fishing in the middle of the day in the summer in Florida can be very tough. The morning the bite is over and it is hot. This is not a bad time to go in for a few hours and cool off and take a nap. There are some situations, such as tarpon fishing, where fishing can be good in the middle of the day. Anglers do need to be careful of the heat and drink plenty of liquids.
Afternoons can offer excellent summertime fishing
Late afternoons can offer good fishing as well, depending on the conditions. Many parts of Florida get afternoon thunderstorms, and anglers need to be wary of those. However, the storms will cool the surface temp off quickly, especially on the shallow flats. Perhaps the best the bite for anglers fishing in the afternoon in the summer time in Florida is to fish the passes and inlets on a hard outgoing tide. This can be very productive for snook, tarpon, and other species.
Night fishing can be quite productive in the summer time. For the most part, anglers are fishing around lighted docks and bridges. These structures offer structure and a break from the current while the lights attract shrimp and bait fish. It sets up a man-made, but natural feeding situation. Also, anglers will have the water to themselves and what is generally the coolest part of the day.
Anglers fishing at night around the lighted bridge fenders and docks can use both artificial lures and live bait. Live shrimp and bait fish are free lined in the current to offer a natural presentation. Lures are also cast up current and then worked through the area. In most cases, the shadowy area where the light fades into dark is the prime ambush spots. Inlets and passes can be productive as well, though anglers need to be very careful in the dark.
Tarpon and snook are top Florida summer species
There are two species in particular or saltwater fishing in Florida in the summer is especially productive. These are snook and tarpon, the two premier inshore game fish in the state. Passes and inlets are deep, full of structure, and have strong current flows. This is a recipe for a fishing hotspot!
Summer snook fishing in Florida
Snook will stack up in the passes and inlets in the southern half of the state of Florida. As mentioned above, the afternoon outgoing tides in at night are often the best times to fish. Anglers can use artificial lures, especially heavy jigs, but this situation is really tailored to using live bait. Using heavy tackle, anglers anchor up near the rock jetties or other structure and bottom fish with a large live bait fish. Pin fish, grunts, croakers, threadfin herring, Spanish sardines, and mullet are all popular baits.
Snook will also be found out on the area beaches. This offers anglers a very unique fishing opportunity, where they can sight cast to large fish without the need of a boat. Anglers simply walk the beach and look for fish in the water. Once spotted, a live bait, artificial lure or fly can be presented to the fish. Since in most cases there is very little structure but instead open water, fairly light tackle can be used.
Tarpon fishing in Florida hits its peak from May through July. It starts in late March or early April in the Florida Keys. Tarpon then migrate up both coasts through the entire state. Anglers can sit a couple hundred yards offshore and be on the lookout for schools of tarpon rolling on the surface. Once spotted, the boat is moved into position and baits presented to the fish.
Tarpon will also school up heavily in the passes and inlets. There is no better example of this in Boca Grande Pass on the West Coast of Florida. It is a legendary tarpon fishing spot in May and June. By early July most of the larger schools have broken up and anglers can search out smaller bunches of fish or even singles and doubles. As with snook, the afternoon outgoing tides are often best to fish for tarpon in the passes and inlets.
More Florida summer fish species
There are certainly other species which provide great action for anglers saltwater fishing in the summer time in Florida. These include redfish, speckled trout, mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel, and more.
Speckled trout fishing can be excellent in the summer time. This is actually one of the best times of year to catch a large speckled trout. Anglers can use a variety of tactics to have success. A live shrimp or bait fish under a popping cork is a time proven technique when drifting the grass flats. Jigs will produce numbers of fish, but larger plugs will produce better sized fish. Chumming with live bait is extremely effective.
Redfish are another species that are plentiful in Florida in the summer time. Most anglers target them on the shallow grass flats throughout the state. Oyster bars are very productive spots as well. By late summer, redfish will have begun to school up in large numbers in preparation for their spawning run. Sight fishing for them on the shallow flats is great sport. A weedless gold spoon is an excellent lure which will allow anglers to cover a lot of water as well as making long casts to spooky fish. Redfish will also be caught under docks and in the passes and inlets.
Mangrove snapper are another very popular species targeted by anglers Florida saltwater fishing in summer. These abundant little saltwater panfish put up a terrific fight for their size and are fantastic eating. They can be found on the grass flats particularly around drop-offs in the deeper holes. Just about any piece of structure, especially those in the passes and inlets, have the potential to hold some snapper. While they will occasionally take artificial lures, live bait is definitely the best approach when chasing these fish.
Spanish mackerel are often thought of as a spring and fall species. However, in certain parts of the state they can be quite plentiful in the summer time as well. They will normally not be seen feeding on the surface in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean as they are in the spring and fall. However, they will relate to structure close to shore. Anglers will also find them on the deeper grass flats in the inshore bays as well is in the passes and inlets. Chumming with live bait is extremely effective, but anglers can also have success use and frozen blocks of chum as well.
In conclusion, this article on Florida saltwater fishing in summer will help anglers have more success during the hottest time of the year!