August begins Friday in West Central Florida, and we can expect afternoon thunderstorms and 90-degree-plus temperatures just about every day. Its can be one of the hottest and muggiest months of the year.
I tend to spend less time on the water and use the month to catch up on boat maintenance and my never-ending honey-do list. When I do fish in the heat of the summer, I tend to start early to avoid the worst of the heat and those afternoon storms.
Summertime fishing for mangrove snapper started off as one of the best in years. These fish tend to school along deeper structure, and some of the best fishing for them is done on the artificial reefs just west of E. G. Simmons Park and Port Manatee. July and August are the peak months to target this overlooked species. All it takes to catch these tasty fish is finding some kind of structure in deeper water and sending down a small shrimp on a No. 2 hook. Hold on. There are some big snapper in the bay this year.
Captain Jason Prieto reported catching a 25-inch red grouper just off Shell Point on a deep rock pile. I don’t know if this was a record for Tampa Bay, but it’s certainly one of the biggest red grouper I’ve seen caught this far up and inside the bay. Red grouper tend to be found further offshore.
The redfish bite continues to be on the slow side; however, we did manage to put a few on the boat in July. We worked the Simmons Park area on high tide using our trolling motor to ease around the many mangrove islands that line the area from the park north to Apollo Beach. Scaled sardines placed about 16 inches under a bobber seemed to work well.
There are still plenty of Spanish mackerel inside Tampa Bay. The trick is to get them to bite. The bite has been a bit slow this summer season. I expect that to change as we head toward September. When fishing for these fish, try using a 40-pound shock leader with a No. 1 XXX long shank hook. Live sardines, threadfin herring and shrimp are the baits of choice.
So far this summer trout fishing has been typical with lots of catch reports of smaller-sized fish (less than 15 inches). Trout have to be between 15 and 20 inches before you can keep one to take home for dinner. Each angler is allowed four – and one of the four can be over 20 inches. Look for grass in the four-foot-plus range and fish the trout with a popping cork using shrimp or sardines for bait.
Summer is a great time to wade fish. Pick days when the tides are low near or just after sunset. I typically use artificial baits and have great success with trout, a few snook and redfish. If for nothing else, watching a beautiful sunset while fishing a pristine Tampa Bay grass flat is reward enough.
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 [email protected]