Mid-July brings quite an interesting mixed bag for fishing locally.
There’s obviously heat and humidity enough to alter the energy with which most fishers practice their craft. Lots of folks flatly tell us they don’t fish in July or August due to the oppressive heat. Anglers both serious and tough, though, are happy to focus on the longest days, the highest tides, and the lengthened list of available saltwater species that summer brings.
On the other side of that coin you have the fish….and various species are likewise tough and not-so-tough in the heat.
Some favorites seem to be hardy enough that that they are rarely forced to seek cooler water. It’s not very out of the ordinary to actually find bass best in a foot of hot water. If the dissolved oxygen is good, the cover is adequate, and baitfish are present, Florida bassers shouldn’t be surprised to find largemouths in 90-degree shallows. The same is true with redfish in salt water. Then you have the bluegill that seem increasingly happy and active the hotter it gets. Like the salty redfish, the bream become thinner-bodied in mid-to-late summer, but they dependably congregate and feed vigorously in the shallows.
And some of Florida’s greatest fish are only present here when it’s hot. Fans of extreme sport are hooking tackle-busting tarpon and cobia that will mostly disappear when the water cools in autumn.
But other sought-after species fall on the side of those heat-avoiding anglers.
Though they obviously must feed year-round, speckled perch activity definitely declines as the summer heat builds. It is interesting, however, that following very rainy summertime periods, speck catches pick up noticeably in the resulting cooler water. We have seen this over the last month on Newnan’s Lake, where rare June and July crappie limits have become common.
Possibly the number one target of local inshore saltwater fans, the speckled trout is another heat-avoiding fish. As water temps rise, the top trout catches come from deeper and deeper grass flats. Most trout fishers focus on grass flats in three-to-six feet of water. But for a few weeks now, some of the best gulf trout-catching tales have come from a twelve-foot-plus deep zone of mixed sand and grass off Suwannee known as ‘Spotty Bottom’.
You might need to switch your target species—and your fish of choice might not be where you caught them last spring…but the hottest part of summer does offer the angler excellent opportunities.
A very large number of people enjoy fishing occasionally and would love to introduce their children to the sport—but they have no good places to go and no fishing equipment.
Here in Gainesville, we are fortunate to have an exceptionally nice answer to that problem. One Saturday each month, the Fishing for Success program presents a Family Fishing Day at the University of Florida’s IFAS Millhopper ponds (7922 NW 71 Street). This Saturday, July 15, is one of those very popular Family Fishing Days.
Each event this year has attracted between 200 and 500 people, and from 6,000 to 8,000 children and their adult chaperones participate annually.
Between 8 a.m. and noon, the FFS folks will make six ponds stocked with bass, channel catfish, and bluegill available to the public. To boot, they offer loaner poles and prepared, bagged bait (but participants are welcome to bring their own tackle and bait). There’s no need to RSVP for the morning of fun, family-oriented fishing—just stop by the registration desk when you arrive Saturday morning. Participants are asked to leave their pets at home and, if possible, to bring empty aluminum cans and printer cartridges to donate. Fishing for Success recycles these, ultimately turning them into bait and tackle.