Catch and release snook fishing will also 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. 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. The same flies that work at night usually also work in the surf, although be observant of the size baits that are present in the area you are fishing so you can “match the hatch”.
Reds should be very active in shallow water this month, although redfish action has been below average for some time. With plentiful baitfish and higher tides, they should 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. I tie my Grassett Flats Minnow in a larger size this time of year to match the size and profile of pilchards or pinfish that are plentiful. Fly poppers and Gurglers may draw some big explosions!
Trout will be plentiful on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift with weighted flies on sink tip fly lines to find fish. Diving birds or baitfish “dimpling” on the surface are signs that predators may be present. A drift anchor will slow your drift to a more manageable speed if it’s windy. You may also find Spanish mackerel, blues, pompano and more mixed with trout on deep grass flats. You’ll need to add 6” of 60-pound fluorocarbon to your leader when toothy fish are in the mix. Flats close to passes or on points that get the good tidal flow, like the Middleground, Radio Tower and Marina Jack flats or Stephens and Bishop Points are usually productive.
In addition to tarpon, you might find false albacore (little tunny), Spanish mackerel, tripletail or cobia in the coastal gulf this month. Look for mackerel and albies feeding on the surface. You might even find a stray king mackerel in the mix around feeding frenzies. 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. You might find cobia swimming with tarpon or cruising bars in shallow water along the beach. You can use your tarpon fly tackle for cobia, but an 8 to 9-weight fly rod will be better suited for mackerel and albies. I also occasionally run into tripletail in July, either around a crab trap float, buoy or floating debris.