As we approach the height of summer, it might seem that while enduring the heat, humidity, and thunderstorms our options are limited. However, there are some unique opportunities if you’re ready to get up early and be on the water before sunrise. The flat calm conditions make the boat ride worthwhile and it’s a short ride at that. Most days, plan on being back for lunch.
At first light, the upper harbor is a good place to start looking for rolling tarpon. It’s a lot of area and can definitely use up some of that window. From the 20 foot hole between the West Wall and Ponce Park up to the mouth of both the Myakka and Peace Rivers is the zone. In particular, around U.S. 41 Bridge can be really good. Moreover, loading at either Ponce or Laishley Park makes for a short run.
On fly, I’ll throw a 3/0 red and black or purple and black Puglisi peanut butter pattern. On conventional tackle, the deep running D.O.A. Baitbuster is a good soft plastic and it’s always tough to beat a live threadfin herring. Around the 20-foot hole, don’t be surprised if you run into some sharks. Black nose, blacktip, and bull sharks are always possible.
In addition, smaller sharks can be great sport on the bars that border the open harbor. It’s not unusual to see blacktip and bulls cruising and on the prowl. These bars stay a bit cooler from a decent tide flow. Typically, Turtle Bay and the Bokeelia bars fish well. Also, don’t be surprised to see a school of jack crevalle cruising and busting bait on these bars. They disappear as quick as they show up so be ready to throw no matter what you’ve got rigged.
Shorelines adjacent to these bar systems do hold numbers of redfish that provide for some sight fishing opportunities. The best time to look is on the lower tides before the fish have an opportunity to get up in the bushes.
With slick mornings, the markers offer a unique opportunity. Because it’s structure, there’s always bait and consequently predator species won’t be far away. Spanish mackerel, jacks, blue runners, and mangrove snapper are just an example. It may not be any of the more glamorous species; but it’ll keep your rod bent and on fly and light tackle it’s still plenty of fun. Artificial baits like plugs, feathered jigs and spoons are all you need.
On the other side of the harbor, there’s another good option, snook on the beaches. In fact, this is one of the best opportunities for shore bound anglers all year. Again, I’ll throw a Puglisi design but here I like the 2/0 silver and white peanut butter pattern. There are usually good numbers of pilchards or scaled sardines on the beaches so a suspending plug with some flash like a Mirrolure Mirrodine fishes well.