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On the Water with Capt. Bill Russell | July brings hot, humid days with thunderstorms

By BILL RUSSELL - Professional fishing guide | Jul 3, 2024

Capt. Bill Russell

July is the month summer weather settles in bringing hot humid days, often with little wind until early afternoon as a sea breeze kicks in, followed by thunderstorms. Most anglers opt for an early start to take advantage of calm seas and avoid the mid-afternoon heat and storms.

For those looking to bring home fish dinner, mangrove snapper is a good choice through the summer. No need to make a long run offshore, as snapper are caught throughout the inshore and nearshore waters. Fish for snapper under docks, bridges, piers or about any type of structure. Many anglers do very well from shore without the expense of a boat fishing locations like the Matlacha Drawbridge and Bokeelia Pier. From boat, fish under deeper mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, sand potholes and rock ledges or structure in and near the Gulf passes. Mangrove snapper is one of our tastier fish and fight hard for their size. They make a great summer target. Often leader and hook shy if the water is clear, it’s often necessary to lighten the tackle. Inshore, I go with three or more feet of 12 to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 1/0 circle hook.

Redfish and seatrout are caught throughout the summer. High tides give the best opportunity for redfish as they are foraging under the shade of mangrove shorelines. Seatrout often run in schools with the best bite often coming over the morning incoming tides as cooler water moves over grass flats. Grass flats with clear or clean water in 4 to 8-foot depths are favored areas.

Calm summer mornings give good opportunities to run offshore. American red snapper season is open in Gulf waters for recreational anglers through the month of July for those willing to spend the fuel money for a long run offshore. Not sure of the reason but both gag and red grouper seasons are closed. To get updated grouper, snapper and all fishing regulations go to myfwc.com or download the Fish Rules app.

Closer in, within sight of land, reefs and wrecks can be productive with everything from snapper to goliath grouper. You will not hook any big red snapper, but you can fill a cooler with tasty fillets and save a lot of fuel money. Anchoring up current of structure with a fresh chum bag is preferred. A variety of baits is a good idea as well as an arsenal of rods rigged and ready from light to heavy action.

Keep a look out for speedsters such as bonito, Spanish and king mackerel harassing bait schools in depths from 20-90 feet. Small spoons or Tuna Jets in various colors can bring instant hookups when trolled around feeding activity. Watch for birds and surface commotion to locate the fish. If you have a well full of live bait fish, a little chumming may quickly get the action started. Artificial reefs are a natural attractant for bait fish followed by predators.

Catch-and-release snook fishing is strong through the summer. Large females are up and down the coast surrounded by smaller males as they are in their summer mating rituals. Often the best fishing happens in the surf along the gulf beaches. Snook will swim parallel to the beach, often just a few feet from shore in search of their next meal. This offers great sight fishing possibilities for both conventional and fly anglers. They can be located anywhere along the beaches, but if you find some type of structure in the water, such as a tree branch or rocks, they often congregate near it.

Sharks are another summertime favorite. Varieties of species both large and small are common catches both inshore and off. While they are a nuisance for some, many anglers target them for their fighting ability. Sharks play an important role in our ecosystem; please make every effort to quickly release them unharmed. Every kid loves to catch a shark of any size and now is a good time, just make sure and do it safely for both the angler and the shark.

Keep up to date with fishing regulations and seasons in the area you fish, as they change often. You can visit myfwc.com for all current state and federal regulations.

Also, you can upload the Fish Rules app on your phone. It has current regulations and seasons with pictures to help identify fish.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-410-8576, on the web at fishpineisland.com or email gcl2fish@live.com.

Have a safe week and good fishin’

As a lifetime resident of Matlacha and Pine Island, Capt. Bill Russell has spent his life fishing and learning the waters around Pine Island and Southwest Florida, and as a professional fishing guide for the past 23 years.