May, as usual, is producing some very good fishing despite the winds. Most anglers have been able to getting into some nice snook most every trip. The trout bite remains steady. You can count on the redfish. The cobia are consistent and should remain so well into June. Tarpon, other than, those laid up in the coves, have more difficult. With the water churned up and oxygenated by the winds, the tarpon tend not to roll on the surface as much and are difficult to spot. They are still here and will be here until it turns cold.
June, July, August and September are the real fishing months here in Everglades National Park and the Ten Thousand Islands. The weather is very predictable, as are the fishing patterns. The fish are typically big and aggressive. This area offers some wide variety of species and habitat. In the summer time, you can do it all. I simple love this time of year. It is a time when anglers book for a week and we can do something different everyday. For me, however, there is no such thing as a typical trip … perhaps a typical week.
In the summer it is hot, so like most everywhere else in the South, the best bite is in the mornings and evenings. Most species of fish tend not be nearly as aggressive in the mid-day as there are early and late … most species, but not all.
The mornings are typically, very calm … especially early in the summer. Most mornings there is a convective sea-breeze blowing from shore early that produces a mild ripple or chop. However, just about every shoreline and beach is in the lee. Mid-to-late morning, as the land mass heats up, the breeze will cease and the whole area, including the near offshore areas can go slick calm. About one to two o’clock, the sea breezes will pickup near shore and things will chop up a bit. At 3 pm, you will here the first clap of thunder … you can set your watch to it. Typically, sometime between 4:30 and 6:00 pm, the rain and thunderstorms will cease. The cooling effects of the rains, stops the sea-breezes and turns on the fishing. That is, again, the time to be out on the water.
Summertime is the time for the split day charter. On a typical split day, we will fish from sunrise until late morning when it begins to get hot and the bite slows. We return to the dock for a hearty lunch and a good long nap in the air-conditioning. Along about four-ish, subject to the thunderstorms, we head back out for the evening trip.
Perhaps the most difficult thing about summer is deciding what to do. Summer, is primetime for kayak fishing. The calm mornings, with the expansive areas of lee shorelines, are perfect for this extremely stealthy means of fishing. A kayak trip, where we transport everything, deep into the Park makes for a great trip for the whole family. We establish a home-base on one the beaches, buddy-up and fish until lunch time. Typically, for those that want, we will have a shore lunch, with or without the grill, back on the beach. After lunch, depending on conditions, we will either continue to fish the first area or move to a new one.
The calm mornings mean top water action is at its best. Throwing top water plugs near the oyster bars can produce some of the biggest snook explosions of the year. There is nothing better than a 20 lb snook crashing top water baits. However summertime top water fishing produces a lot of by-catch that you must be willing to deal with … trout, redfish, tarpon, jacks, etc.
One of my favorite types of summer time fishing, a type that is productive, all year round, is sight fishing. Being poled into a calm cove and seeing big snook and redfish laid up is very, very exciting. Picking out your fish, making the perfect cast, watching him eat and then wrestling him out of the trees is a blast. But, nothing sets off the adrenaline pump like the sight of a 150 lb silver-sided dinosaur laying two inches under the water. A well placed fly or jig and it is show time. Sight fishing and then jumping a big tarpon skyward will change your life!!
With the abundance of fish and calm conditions, mornings are also great for wade fishing. The fish are there we saw them sight fishing earlier in the week, remember. However, there is something special about being in the water with the fish. The process of unloading from the boat and getting into the water will push the fish around. Once things settle down, however, the fish will quickly move back into range. Move slowly, fish thoroughly, and you will do very well. Be sure to work the bait all the way back in. There have been many times that I have had fish strike within 10 feet just as I was about to lift the bait out of the water. You are low in the water, so do not see the fish well, but they don’t see you either so they will come in quite close.
For sheer quantity of big fish, live baiting has to be the choice. Many trips start out with a tub full of volunteers. White bait can be found on just about any grass flat. Chumming helps to bring the bait fish close, but usually is not necessary. Fishing the outside ambush points with a live pilchard is like giving candy to a baby. They love those pilchards.
The mornings on the grass flats can also be thrilling. Summertime is the time for plugs over grasses. Typically the speckled trout are a bit smaller than in the cooler months, but there are piles of them. Mixed in are jack, ladyfish and the occasional cobia. When you are in the ladyfish and they suddenly stop biting, be on your toes. Tarpon come in quickly to feed on the ladyfish. We typically lose one ladyfish per day to these pesky giants. They can really mess up a ladyfish extravaganza!
As you can see, the mornings can be a blast, and there are many other choices. The backcountry, like the river system is a whole different world to discover. What about the second half of the day? Well, the choices are just as broad ... river tarpon fishing on plug or fly; twilight tarpon trips in the passes, the offshore blue holes for everything that swims; goliath grouper fished with 8 lb jacks as bait; massive schools of permit, cobia and fishing the docks at night are among my favorite.
One thing is for sure, whatever you decided to do, however you decide to fish, summer and early fall is the time to be here.
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