Here is why, as soon as the water gets to be too hot the fish move off the flat in search of cooler water because the higher the water temp the lower the oxygen level becomes. Along with the water getting hotter the natural food that redfish and other fish target changes some as well. Now rather than feeding mainly on crustaceans and small fish, you will find them also hunting larger baitfish like pinfish, pigfish, and mullet. Summer also brings offshore species in on the beach and around inlets and the jetties and on the right day a short paddle can put you in the middle of a school of feeding tarpon, jacks, kingfish and a host of other big game fish. With this in mind the gear you select to use this time of the year should reflect this change. Here is my tackle selections for summer and I will break it down by inshore and offshore.
Part one of this two part article will be on inshore or back country tackle.
I have always been a fan of the seven foot, six to twelve pound medium action rod for casting soft baits however in the summer I tend to use more live bait than in the winter so I will bring along a seven and a half foot, eight to seventeen pound class rod or even a eight foot rod depending of the bait I am using. I build my own rods but I like the Shimano line of rods like the Teramar inshore series as well as crowder rods E-series, G-Loomis Green water, St. Croix Tide master, and TFO'S Gary Loomis series. When buying a rod it is important to match it with the reel you will be using so bring it with you to your local tackle shop and match it up or if the shop has the same reel in their case ask to see it so you can make sure you will be happy with the match.
Their are two different schools of thought when it comes to what size reels to use inshore, the "old school" way of thinking is the larger the reel the more line capacity and drag power the reel will have.. Then you have the "new school" that I guess I fall into and that is the smaller and lighter the reel the longer I can fish with it without wearing myself out. Plus with most of us fishing with braided line the capacity isn't a issue plus the drag capability of a reel is really not as important as most would make it out to be. I use the Shimano Stradic CI4 2500 and the Shimano Saros 3000 for my inshore combos. At our store Handler Fishing Supply I sell more 2500 and 3000 size reels than any other size to the inshore clients I have. Also make sure that the reel you have or are about to buy is rated for saltwater use. Every brand makes a good product so take your time and read product reviews from folks that aren't on their pro staff.
Line and leaders:
Again the "old school" and "new school" have their reasons for what is used on their reels as main line, but to me their is only one choice and that is braid. I like it over mono for a number of reasons, none more important than sensitivity. I like to feel everything that is going on with my lure/bait at that moment. Unlike mono that has stretch, braid has no stretch but with that you must use a leader so you don't pull hooks all day. I have two spools for most of my reels one will be spooled with ten pound the other with fifteen pound test and to that I use a uni uni knot to tie my leader to my braid weather it's monofilament or fluorocarbon. I tend to use twelve pound leader when casting soft baits and up to twenty pound leader when throwing hard baits or live/natural baits. Power pro is my favorite braid. As for my favorite leader maker I really like Gamma fluorocarbon but I have used Ande, Triple Fish, Berkley Vanish as well as Seaguar and again all are great products.
Bait and Lures:
Whether your a soft plastic fisherman or hard bait fisherman this time of year is very exciting! The fish are aggressive and will strike just about anything presented in the right way. Keeping the warm water in mind I like to fish shallow first thing in the morning and my favorite thing to use is a shad tail style soft plastic like the D.O.A CAL baits or the sea shads from Bass Assassin Blurp. As I have said before I like to rig them weedless on 3/0 worm hooks when fishing the grass flats, however if I am working deeper holes than I like to rig them on a 1/8oz jig head to allow them to get down a little quicker. But nothing gets the blood pumping like a hot top water bite. My go to top water bait is a Skitter Walk from Rapala. The afternoon can be a good time to fish deeper spots with lip baits or suspending baits like the Mirr-O-Dine from Mirr-O-lure. most suspending lures with sink to about three or four foot of water putting the lure right in the strike zone.
But as for live or natural bait the choices depend on your region more so than anything. Here on Florida's Space Coast our top live baits are Shrimp, Finger Mullet, Pinfish, Pigfish, and pilchards. All of these baits can be caught by way of cast net. Their are nets that do different jobs like catch shrimp, or pilchards without gilling them that tends to kill them. Your local tackle store should have net options for you like length and mesh size and weight. I am a big fan of the Tim Wade custom nets in fact I use his six foot finger mullet net. It is important to remember to make your live bait look as natural as you can and to achieve this I tend to free line my live bait rather than weight it down. To me it's more fun to watch a mullet or pinfish run for it's life and see a big redfish hunt it down and eat it then it is to simply cast a bait out and hope for something to swim up to it and pick it up off the bottom.
Make sure to bring plenty of drinks and snacks with you this time of year, it is easy to get dehydrated in Florida and a few bottles of cold water could save your life. I keep my drinks cold in my 15qt Yeti cooler. Also sunscreen is very important I use Watermans applied science sunscreen apply it once and you are good to go for a full days fishing... I never leave home without a buff as well. Your choice of PFD is up to you but I like the hip pack style for me because well, it's Florida and it's hot and the last thing I want to do is sweat anymore than I have to. Letting someone know where you will be paddling is very important as well as when you think you will be off the water. If you are going to fish at night a head lamp and a kayak light like this http://www.cornwall-canoes.co.uk/equipment/pictures/scotty-sea-light-l.jpg would be a good idea [plus it's the law]. I also like to wear long sleeve shirts and a hat to help to protect me from the sun and with all the clothing lines out there I look for ones that have Dri Fit type shirts like the ones from Hooked Nation or Skinny Water Culture
The summer is a great time to explore new areas you might not have fished during the winter. Because the water levels tend to be higher making for great opportunity to get away from the normal running areas of boats and get back in areas where the fish go to feed as the water comes up with the afternoon storms that are common place this time of year. Many of my favorite places to fish in the summer are all but dry during the winter. As the rain falls in the summer it makes everything more active and it can really turn on a bite. I like to look for culvert pipes or run off areas to hit during or after a good rain as these are magnets for baitfish to gather around to feed on the bugs and small shrimps that get flushed from their hiding places. This gives game fish a place to go and not have to work hard to find food.
But most important is to take a kid fishing!
To be continued..........
About the Author: Charles "redfish chuck" is a life long fisherman located on Florida's Space Coast that at thirty-one years old he prides himself on being a well rounded angler. From freshwater to saltwater and open ocean fishing, Charles not only builds his own rods but he also ties his own flies. Charles is also a Pro Staff Member of Yakangler.com, Yeti coolers and Handler Fishing Supply.