Summer is in full swing and the water temps are as hot as they will get for the rest of the year, and with that warm water comes the age old question “where are the fish? ".
Well friends the key to finding fish like redfish, trout, snook, and tarpon on the flats when the water is as hot as it is now is to get out early and fish shallow grass flats and mangrove shorelines from sun up till about 10:30 or so. By then the water will heat up and the oxygen levels drop to the point that most game fish will flee the area in search of deeper, cooler water. My bait of choice this time of year is still a four inch shad tail rigged on a weedless hook or a 1/16oz jig head. Redfish will be hunting crabs and shrimp in the shallowest water they can get into to. I like to paddle about a hundred yards off the bank first thing in the morning and just drift that line “if the wind will let me ". And watch for tails, or pushes back towards the shoreline. Remember that when a redfish is tailing your strike zone is only about the size of a dinner plate so a good cast is a must. I have been finding redfish in about six inches to a foot of water and most of these fish have been feeding on fiddler crabs, it's nothing for a redfish to get so shallow that their eyes are almost out of the water when hunting for fiddler crabs. For those who like to fly fish a crab fly will work great this time of year I like the merkin crab
I try not to target big bull reds this time of year because the water is to hot and fighting a 40+ inch redfish in hot water from a kayak will almost kill them, so for me it's slot fish I am after. Here on Florida's East Coast the slot size for redfish is 18 to 27 inches one fish per person.
Let’s talk about trout for a minute; there are a few different ways to find big trout. The first thing I like to do is to find an area that transitions from a foot or so to three to four feet. Then I look for bait like big mullet, pinfish, or pigfish if you can see any of these bait fish then you know you are in a good spot. The gator trout or a trout 25 inches and bigger tend to hangout alone and so covering allot of water is always a good thing. Gator trout have great eye sight so getting close to one is not an easy thing to do, here is where a long cast will help.
Shrimp or pigfish under a popping cork is a great way to target big trout or try a jerk shad rigged weedless in and around the potholes on the flat. What are potholes you might ask? Well potholes are the sandy areas you see that dot the grass flats. These potholes are used by game fish to ambush pray items, by sitting on the bottom of a pothole a fish is hidden from view by the grass that surrounds the pothole. When fishing on a flat that has allot of potholes you should cast as far past them as you can then work your lure back over the top of the potholes while slowing your presentation down just a little bit once you are near them.
For smaller trout try targeting them around the islands and deeper areas of the Intercoastal with baits like curly tail grubs and light jig heads or tube lures. Once you find them hanging in an area you can drop a marker or just anchor and cast to the same place over and over again. You can catch schoolie size trout till your arms fall off once you find them and another thing to look for when looking for schoolie trout is glass minnows. Glass minnows are an easy pray item for the trout to catch so if you find a big school of glass minnows you can bet you will find trout nearby. Oh and by the way if you are thinking of getting into fly fishing there are few fish that will take a fly as well as a small trout so it is a great way to gain some confidence, try a Clouser minnow or a Glass minnow fly.