Dog days strategy
The name "dog days" comes from the ancient belief that Sirius, also called the Dog Star, in close proximity to the sun, was responsible for hot summer weather. Dog days is a common term among fishermen signifying the long hot days of August and September, when fish can be hard to find and catch. While there's no doubt that late summer days are long and often intensely hot and uncomfortable, they can also yield some surprising results for savvy anglers. By employing a change of strategy and tailoring their efforts to maximize comfort and opportunities, anglers can catch fish in relative comfort.
One of the prime times to fish during the dog days is at night or in the early morning hours before the sun climbs high in the sky. The myriad dock and bridge lights that illuminate local waterways hold concentrations of fish including snook, trout, redfish, bluefish and tarpon. Docks and bridges surrounded by relatively deep water generally hold more fish. Tidal flow is another indicator of action. Lights on the up tide side of a structure are best, allowing anglers 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 prime dock and bridge lights on the incoming tide and then again 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 an indication of a good spot and ledges, oyster bars and seawalls near lights often increase the odds of action. Lights that sit low to the water seem to have a more distinctive shadow line, an area where feeding fish concentrate. Even if a light is dim, the fish will still congregate near 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 during the dog days of summer. Grassett also targets 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 size of the bait the tarpon are feeding on.
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, potholes, sandbars 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 dog days of summer 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. 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 dog days, can be challenging, but master the rules and you'll have a lot of productive fishing and very little competition.