Dog day doldrums require special strategies
Captain Nick Angelo, of Land of Lakes,
with a snook he caught. The myriad dock and bridge lights that
illuminate the waterways from St. Petersburg to Venice are prime
areas to find snook, trout, redfish and a host of other species.
Dog day doldrums? They don’t have to get you down. Savvy anglers know to change their strategies, tailoring their efforts to maximize comfort and opportunities.
One of the prime times to fish during the dog days is at night or in the early morning hours before the sun crests the horizon. The myriad dock and bridge lights that illuminate the waterways from St. Petersburg to Venice are prime targets. These areas hold schools of snook as well as trout, redfish and a host of other species.
Captain Nick Angelo, of Land of Lakes, fishes the areas from St. Pete to Clearwater Beach. In these areas he targets a variety of fish including: snook, trout, redfish, tarpon, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, small grouper and bluefish. Although there aren’t as many snook as in areas to the south, the ones he does find are much bigger. There are usually plenty of redfish that average from rats (under slot) to over slot size. For less experienced saltwater fly fisherman, Angelo finds that trout fishing can provide hot action, sometimes nonstop, all night long. Angelo looks for lights near a pass on docks, bridge fenders, boats or even the shadow lines created by street lights on the area bridges. He uses a 9- or 10-weight rod with a 9-foot section of 40-pound fluorocarbon. He prefers a strong incoming tide just after dark, around the full and new moons.
The same strategy will work in the waters around Anna Maria Island, as well as south through Sarasota. In all areas, docks with a water depth in excess of 6 feet are best. Tidal flow is another indication of action. Lights on the up tide side of a structure are best, allowing you more latitude when making a presentation, preventing hang ups and allowing flies, lures and bait to swing to the fish naturally. With a little attention to detail, it’s possible to target some docks on the incoming tide and others on the outgoing tide.
The presence of hard bottom near a bridge or dock is another indicator of good fish habitat. The presence of bait is directly related to structures like ledges, oyster bars and seawalls. These areas attract the bait that lures the fish. The type of light on the dock can also influence the action. Lights that sit low to the water seem to have a more distinctive shadow line, an area where feeding fish concentrate. In any case, the fish seem to hang on the dark edges of the shadow lines.
Captain Rick Grassett, of Sarasota, has pioneered night snook fishing from Sarasota to Venice. He regularly catches good numbers of snook when conditions are prime. While there are large numbers of snook under the best lights, they range much smaller than their more northern cousins. Recently Grassett has had excellent pre-dawn action on tarpon around lighted bridges in Sarasota. These fish range from 20 pounds to over 100. He has found the tarpon to be selective and hard to catch unless he is matching the hatch.
When the rising sun lightens the horizon, anglers can move to the flats to target redfish, snook and trout. Concentrate your fishing around flats with good grass cover. In addition look for flats that feature channel edges, pot holes, sand bars and oyster bars. Strong tide will also increase your odds.
In the hottest months, from August through September, most of the early morning tides are from 1 to 1 1/2 feet, so anglers will seldom see pushes or tails. Instead, concentrate on scattering bait, working birds and schools of mullet. One of the most productive strategies is to fish seams, demarcation lines that separate grass, sand and other structure.
While pre-dawn or early morning is generally the best time during sweltering weather, there is one exception. The late afternoon outgoing tides that correspond to the full and new moons provide some fast action with a variety of species. Areas to concentrate on include the slues and channels that drain the inshore flats and the passes where the funneling effect concentrates game fish and their prey. Passes that have flanking seawalls and rock groins can be particularly productive. These areas attract and concentrate the baitfish on which the predators feed. Work lures and flies close to the structure.
Fishing the doldrums can be productive no matter where you fish as long as you follow a few rules. First and foremost you must find conditions that are acceptable to the species you seek. A snook and redfish are much more tolerant of high water temperatures than trout. In general, water temperatures must not be excessive, and you can count on early mornings and deeper water to moderate conditions. The exception to the rule will be those areas and times where the presence of food overrides the fishes’ desire to locate comfortable conditions. Fishing the summer doldrums can be challenging, but master the rules and you’ll have a lot of productive fishing to yourself.