Rain, rain and more rain defined the second half of July. Southwest winds made weather wet and unpredictable with many Tampa Fishing Charters being cut short or cancelled. Add to this, the difficulty in catching quality sized whitebait, and July became a bit of a challenging month. July is almost always a "transition" month for bait. The big stuff leaves and the small stuff, mostly too small to use, shows up. For anglers wanting to be among those catching whitebait, understand that there's no mystery to it. Like so many things in life, hard work gets it done...so if you want to have the shiny baits in your bait well, plan on the following. Get up early, get to your spot, mix a BIG batch of chum and set up camp. Countless fishermen pull up on a bait spot, chum for 15 minutes and then leave with no bait. When bait is tough, plan on putting in your time and a lot of chum in the water. Be patient, throw your net a lot and you too, will have whitebait.
In between the soakings, redfish did show some life. The larger fish of earlier in the summer seemed to give way to small and slot sized fish. The most effective overall technique for catching these fish was to move, move and move until fish holding areas were found. Bites were usually instantaneous when fish were located...supporting the theory that redfish almost always eat when bits are dropped in front of them. Many Tampa Fishing Guides make it a point to "salt in" redfish spots that haven't been fished in a while on every trip so as to keep locating more fish. As the groups of fish being located aren't particularly large, continuing to find more fish is the key to success every day as productive spots will dry up if fished continually. Over slot fish did make occasional appearances but were clearly fewer in number than back in May and June. Most big fish were caught as solos or with just one or two other fish.
The weather did impact the snook bite as many outside spots, such as jetties and island points became too rough. Extreme muddy water never helps this bite either and many spots were mudded up. So July, which often provides exceptional snook fishing, was a bit less productive than in past years. With the summer spawn coming to a close, these fish will begin to disperse over the next few weeks and be more difficult to catch in numbers. Also, look for some of these fish to move back up into potholes inside of Honeymoon and Caledesi Islands towards the end of August. Certain interior mangrove points and residential canals will hold fish as well. With that said, snook were caught on most Tampa Fishing Charters where they were targeted. Jumbo whitebait attracted most of the better specimens with grass grunts occasionally producing.
With one of our slower inshore fishing months coming up, it's great time to assess all of your equipment, boat included, to make any repairs that are needed. Once September arrives, Tampa Fishing Guides look for inshore fishing to pick up a bit and the near shore bite for spanish mackerel, snapper and, eventually, kingfish and grouper to begin.