By Rick Grassett
Tarpon will still be a good option this month. Shallow-water action for reds and big trout will be best early and late in the day. Some of the best action will be with trout, blues, pompano and more on deep grass flats. Catch-and-release snook fishing in the Intracoastal Waterway at night or in the surf should also be good options.
Large schools of tarpon will dwindle in size and numbers to singles, doubles and small schools of post spawn fish. I usually find tarpon to be aggressive now, with spawning completed. I also find them to be more curious this time of the year, often swinging closer to check out the sound of a landing bait, lure or fly. Spin anglers will do best by setting up in travel lanes and drifting live baits under floats while staying ready to sight cast to fish that may pop up with no notice.
The DOA Baitbuster is my “go-to” lure for tarpon. The DOA Swimming Mullet, 4-inch Shrimp and CAL 4-inch swim bait are also good choices, depending on the situation.
This is my favorite time to fly fish for tarpon. The tactics are the same as earlier in the season, anchoring or staking out on travel routes, although fish are in a better mood. Large schools of tarpon are impressive now, but if you spook the lead fish you will spook all of them.
Tarpon will thin out toward the end of the month as they begin to move to inside waters of Sarasota Bay, Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor. They move into these areas to rest and feed following spawning. They can be targeted in these areas with flies, a variety of DOA lures or live bait.
Also look for tarpon feeding in schools of “breaking” ladyfish in these areas.
Regulations have returned to normal for reds and snook in Sarasota. Spotted seatrout have changed in southwest Florida to a three-fish-per-person bag limit and a six-fish boat limit. Trout must be from 15 inches to 19 inches with one allowed per vessel larger than 19 inches. In my opinion it’s important to protect larger trout, which are usually female breeders. Full regulations and details for all species can be found at myfwc.com.
Catch-and-release snook fishing will be a good option this month. With very warm water this time of year, it is important to use tackle heavy enough to land them quickly. Spin anglers should do well fishing lighted docks and bridges in the Intracoastal Waterway with CAL jigs with shad tails or jerk worms or DOA shrimp. Fly anglers should do well with clear intermediate sink-tip lines and wide-profile flies, such as Lefty’s Deceiver or EP flies, since larger baitfish may be more predominant. Docks and bridges close to passes should be the best ones.
You’ll also find snook in the surf, where you can walk along the beach and sight cast to them in shallow water. Gibby’s DT Variation is a “go-to” fly for many snook surf anglers.
You’ll find reds very active in shallow water this month. With plentiful baitfish and higher tides, they’ll spend more time feeding over shallow grass flats. Look for them along the edges of bars or in potholes when the tide is low or along mangrove shorelines and around oyster bars when the tide is high.
You’ll also find big trout in many of the same areas where you find reds, but the bite for big trout is usually best early or late in the day. Surface walking top-water plugs or fly poppers and Gurglers may draw some big explosions! Casting CAL jigs with shad tails or jerk worms ahead of your boat is a good way to locate reds.
I like to drift deep grass flats and cast ahead of my drift with CAL jigs and shad tails or jerk worms, DOA Deadly Combos or Ultra Hair Clouser flies tied on long shank hooks on sink tip fly lines to find trout. A drift anchor will slow your drift to a more manageable speed if it’s windy. Look for birds or baitfish on the surface to find fish. You may find Spanish mackerel, blues, pompano and more mixed with trout on deep grass flats. Flats close to passes or on points that get good tidal flow are usually productive.
In addition to tarpon, you might find false albacore (little tunny), tripletail or cobia in the coastal gulf this month. Look for albies feeding on the surface. I have seen large schools of albies “blitz” the beach while tarpon fishing this time of year. They are usually feeding on larger baits, such as threadfins or pilchards, so flies and lures should be sized accordingly. You might even find cobia swimming with tarpon or cruising bars in shallow water along the beach. You can use your tarpon fly or spin tackle for cobia, but a medium spinning outfit or an 8 to 9-weight fly rod will be better suited for mackerel and albies.
I also occasionally run into tripletail this time of year, either around a crab trap buoy, navigational marker or floating debris.
There are lots of options this month — late-season tarpon, snook in the surf or at night, or fishing skinny water for reds or big trout. Tarpon fishing is best when sweat is pouring down your back, but you’ll want to fish early in the day in shallow water.