In the late summer, or rather the pre-season to hurricane season, we get some weird water temps as well as weird fish movement from the varying conditions. We might get a string of super hot days, followed by a weeks worth of rain that drops the water temps a bit. Combine that with some whacked out winds and what's one to do if you don't have the luxury of fishing four or more days a week?
There's really no good answer for these conditions but to do a lot of searching and talking to anyone with local knowledge. I wish I had a better answer but that's really it. The fish are very unpredictable when the weather changes so rapidly, even when you think you have the inside track they prove you wrong more times than not.
So what's biting and where are they right now? Keep in mind you'll need to string together a few good days of stable weather, but here's the run down to what I've seen from the last few weeks of August through the first few weeks of September.
First and foremost, get up and out early as to avoid the afternoon storms and heated water, or fish late at night, both are producing fish!
TROUT: They are out there in some decent numbers, but finding anything above 15 inches won't happen on a regular basis. I've been catching most of my trout on the deep side of the grass flats around and near the skyway, but I’ve had some luck as far North as the Coast Guard area. You'll be fighting off the pinfish so you'll want a bait that stays on your rig. I really don't like using live bait for this reason, so l mainly use some sort of artificial. Best colors for artificial have been white to pale yellows on a 1/4 oz chartreuse head. On murky days switch to a dark body for contrast.
It’s tiny tarpon time and I’ve seen good numbers of small tarpon in the last few weeks rolling around in the deep channels, residential canals and marinas. I really like to hit the marinas that are pushed well back into the canals and have lighted docks. Look for nights of low to no wind, ease up to casting range and present your bait out of the zone and work it back through the tarpon. I’ve been finding the tiny tarpon in the 15 to 40 pound range, with a few 60 pounders in the channels. Be sure not to overdress for the occasion by using heavy line, as 30 pound leader will do just fine, or bump it up to 40 or 50 if you’re around heavy structure where break-offs are a given. As for bait, I like to go live here have been doing good on shrimp and small minnows that match the hatch. It's a blast to watch these guy explode from he water so get out and have some fun.
Black drum are still grouping up in decent numbers around the bridges and deeper pockets inside the bay. I haven’t landed over the 25-30 pound range, but that’s a great size and very good fight. Most of our catches have come at night or just before day break. Anything goes when it comes to bait, but crabs and cut chunks of fish seem to be working best. Peak high and right through slack seems to be the best tide to fish.
Yes they are grouping up despite what you may have heard. Look for the bigger reds to be lower in the bay, from Cockroach southward. Depending on what you are using for bait will determine your water depth to fish at. If you like throwing artificial baits then I’d suggest working the lower to mid tide, catching them before they root up under the mangroves and make casting much harder. If you’re live baiting, then I’d work the upper end of the tide giving them some security cover under the mangroves. Again, I’ve been using my special “live artificial” bait in a shedder crab scent on a 1/8 ounce red or yellow jig head and they are killing it! The best color body is transparent. The bait I use has a white inner material that gives it strength and a transparent outer jelly body.
Good luck and check back for my special bait in the near future. One use and you’ll be hooked!