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Find a bounty in cooler water in summer heat

Deep grass is the perfect cover for predators and prey, particularly as temperatures rise.

DAVID A. BROWN | Special to the Times

Deep grass is the perfect cover for predators and prey, particularly as temperatures rise.

Picnic pavilions, ceiling fans, air conditioning vents — folks seek such comfort points during summer's swelter. Fish can't reach any of these, so they work with what they have.

Nature's design offers several means of relief from extreme temperatures. Predators need this, but so do the more delicate baitfish they eat.

Here's a look at where and when to expect good summertime fishing action.

Shallow first

Overnight temperatures are typically the lowest of any 24-hour period. This period cools the shoreline shallows and offers comfortable hunting conditions for trout, redfish, ladyfish, etc.

Coastal islands, spoil banks, oyster bars and sand bars are likely targets around daybreak. Walking a topwater plug in 6-8 inches of water often draws frothy explosions from big trout hunting finger mullet.

Sling a soft plastic jerkbait right to the water's edge then scoot it along the bank. This looks like a baitfish hiding on the sidelines. I've seen snook nearly beach themselves while blasting into finger-deep water to grab minnows.

Dropping deep

As the sun gains height, summer's stifling heat drives fish into progressively deeper water. Thick grass beds offer a layer of organic shelter, but sunlight warms the 2- to 4-foot flats that produce all day during spring and fall.

By 10 a.m., you'll want to be fishing deep grass in 6-8 feet. Spots with scattered sand patches offer transitional edges that predators like to use for ambushing prey.

Hopping bucktails, plastic jigs, small swimbaits or soft plastic jerkbaits above the grass will tempt predators lounging within the blades. Slow sinking twitchbaits, crankbaits and gold spoons will also attract attention.

Getting low-lying fish to rise topside is a tough bill to fill, unless they have a compelling reason. A single bait isn't strong enough, but chum the surface with tiny fry baits or chunks of full-size sardines and you can expect a mob.

Surf's up

Beach wading for snook is a summer favorite, but there's more to this game. The subtropical linesider actually prefers the warm, shoreline water, but trout, redfish, cobia, jacks and ladyfish often roam within an easy cast of the snook zone.

Scaled sardines and threadfin herring will be the primary beach forage, so any minnow imitating lure (i.e. swimbaits, soft plastic jerkbaits, suspending twitchbaits, jigs and topwaters will do the trick.

Live baits fished on circle hooks are nearly a sure bet.

Storm chasers

Actually, chasing storms isn't the idea — you'll want to steer clear of these summer troublemakers. However, the influence of approaching — and passing — squalls can bear a positive impact on coastal fishing.

The most obvious benefit of thunderstorms is cloud cover. If light to moderate rain precedes the rough stuff, you may enjoy a spike in activity as fish respond to the cooler surface temperature.

Barometric fluctuation associated with strong weather stimulates fish into feeding, but don't push your luck with lightning.

Shady spots

Fish may not have beach umbrellas or wide-brim hats, but they do find shade under docks and overhanging mangrove limbs, especially when high tides grant back row access. The stilt houses off Port Richey also harbor sun-weary fish.

Working jigs and soft jerk baits adjacent to these structures will attract your quarry. When space permits, skip a lure or fling a live sardine under the shady cover and you'll usually find the biggest fish hunkering down in the rear.

Even floating grass will offer significant shade when tides pile the vegetation into dense rafts. In this scenario, use heavier jigs to punch through the mats. This looks like a crab or shrimp bolting from the cover and predators are quick to strike.

In any summer scenario, don't let your concern for a fish's comfort override the importance of your own. Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and lots of water will keep you running while you search for your next target.

Find a bounty in cooler water in summer heat 08/14/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 14, 2009 4:30am]
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