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July forecast

Thunderstorms, strong winds and low-pressure systems will dictate when and where anglers fish for the rest of the summer.

If seas are calm, take a long journey offshore for some decent bottom fishing. During July, a variety of deep-water game fish are there for the taking.

Once you reach depths of 120 feet, slow down and start looking. Small bait stacks gather over flat, hard-bottom areas. Some troughs travel for miles, holding endless amounts of bait that attract bottom fish. The bait tends to bundle over any large crack or pot hole because structures are minimal around this prairie-like bottom. These depressions consist of flat limestone slabs of rocks containing cave-like structures. Keep hopping from one bait stack to the next until you hit a jackpot.

Red grouper are much larger in these depths, so beef up the leaders and hooks to avoid tackle failure. A 25-pound red requires at least an 8/0 hook combined with a 100-pound leader.

Some recent trips hauled up trophy-size mangrove snapper weighing 9 pounds. Snapper of this caliber tug hard enough to fool even the most experienced angler, making them think a large grouper is hooked.

Small cigar minnows and Spanish sardines will attract blackfin tuna, sailfish, bonito, dolphin and summertime kingfish. While you are bottom fishing, also do some free-lining, because most of these pelagic fish already have been prowling in the vicinity of the bait stacks. Slow trolling with down riggers also is a great method. Remember, some bait stacks will hold big fish and others won't, so try each one of these tactics at each stop.

Due to unstable weather, the deep waters of the gulf aren't always a welcome sight, but there are other options. Shallow water grouper can be taken from many spots.

The artificial reefs are a huge welcome mat for big barracuda and permit weighing as much as 25 pounds. By now, the barracuda are quite smart because of all the boat traffic. Lighter tackle will put them over the edge if you're in the need for a great fight. A huge fish ripping out lots of line and frequently jumping out of the water always spices up a hot summer day.

Permit will be more cooperative in the early hours of the morning. They are abundant on most of the artificial reefs and will devour a small, free-lined crab.

Tarpon fishing during this month will switch more to a bottom-bait situation. Dead shad or mullet combined with frequent sessions of chumming will lure them in. Expect to be greeted by many blacktip sharks that have taken over the inshore waters for the summer.

_ Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, or e-mail