There is nothing better during the dog days of summer than to grab a rod and head off to your favorite stream in pursuit of Trout. Although I would much prefer to be in some of the high mountain streams in Montana, I do fairly well on my trips to the Driftless area of Wisconsin and some of the small creeks there. There are some things I have learned in other areas that serve me well whenever I am in pursuit of the tasty Trout of summer!
Remember that trout like cooler water and the hot summer sun can warm up a shallow stream to the point where the Trout may get a bit stressed out. The warmer water and anglers mucking up the stream can really do a number on the fishing. Trout prefer water temperatures of between 50 65 degrees (depending on the type of Trout as well) so you may think about fishing at higher elevations after a period of very high Temperatures. The streams at higher elevations may be a bit smaller but hey will also be a bit cooler as well. If you are fishing in an area that doesn’t vary much in altitude try and think like a Trout, where would you find the cooler water? Look for deep pools and holes in the bottom that may be a bit cooler than the shallower areas. Keep a thermometer in your vest for just such an occasion.
Time of day is also very important in pursuit of summer Trout. Not only is it a bit cooler during daybreak and dusk but also the fish tend to feed more voraciously at these times. So, if a nice vacation of sleeping in with breakfast in bed at your favorite bed and breakfast, forget it, you are here to fish! Think about what kinds of food the trout may be eating and then figure out what time of the morning these little Trout tasty treats are fluttering or hopping about. This plays out in the last hour of sunlight as well and is my personal favorite time to fish. Yeah, I am the guy that likes to sleep late! But if you get the chance to stand on the bank or wade a shallow pool when the Trout are rising to feed on a recently hatched insect population, I guarantee you that it is something you will never forget.
So what have we learned about summer Trout fishing? The key is to look for cooler water! Remember that you are not immune to the effects of the sun either and should take necessary precautions yourself, this means drink plenty of water and use an appropriate sun block, and for those of us who have grown just a tad taller than their hair, a cap and a high SPF lotion for our heads as well. You should also consider using the cool water as a climate control system as well; cool water and thin waders can keep you at optimum temps or even a pair of shorts and old sneakers will do if you don’t think hypothermia will kick in. Finally, a light shirt and breathable vest and you are ready for a summer Trout adventure.
Florida has some of the finest fishing in the world, and contrary to many opinions it is still part of the United States and relatively simple to get to. If you are traveling to the state and are not a part –time or full time resident here and have no boat then your best bet is to charter one of the fine captains in the area and head offshore for a day of blue water, blue skies and hopefully lots of action. If you have your own boat and have long dreamed about leaving the sheltered waters of the bay and heading offshore in search of the many game fish that call these South Atlantic waters home but are not sure how to get started than this article is for you! If you are an accomplished offshore angler, adept at rigging baits and following thermo clines then pass this by, as you know this stuff already. I mean c’mon! We can write a whole article just on what knots to use!
To start off, ask yourself the question, “am I experienced enough to fish offshore and is my boat adequate for the adventure?” If you are not sure, then do not go offshore, or at least not without an experienced person on board. It is also a very good idea to carry a PLB or personal Locator Beacon, this is a device that when activated will send a signal to the search and rescue teams to come and get you, immediately. The great thing about fishing off the coast of Florida is that you really don’t have to go that far to catch a variety of species such as Sailfish, some Tuna species, King Mackerel, Dolphin and Wahoo to name a few. While there is a resident population of these species present pretty much year round, some times of the year are better than others. I’ll give a brief rundown of the usual suspects.
Sailfish can be had pretty much year round, but the best fishing is usually in the winter and early spring. When South Floridians feel those cold fronts of November and December you can be certain that the Sailfish wont be far behind. You don’t have to run as far offshore as one may think for them, as although they can be caught in almost any depth, they are typically caught between 90 and 200 feet of water. The simple way to catch them (remember this article is for the offshore newbies) is trolling with rigged ballyhoo, place a skirt in front of this and troll a few rods at varying distances behind the boat and you’re in business. When you get a bit more experienced you can also drift live bait such as Pilchard and Goggle eyes and if you really get going you can learn to fish with a kite to dangle your bait on the surface making it an enticing treat for a variety of game fish. Have a pair strong gloves and a pair of pliers to remove the hook while the fish is still in the water and pull him along until he regains strength and watch him swim away. This of course is after you all lean over and take pictures!
Dolphin, also known as Mahi Mahi can be caught year round as well with the best fishing taking place in spring and early summer. The methods used to catch Dolphin are pretty much the same as for sailfish or any of the other species we will mention with the subtle differences primarily coming in depth, color of skirts and thickness of leader or wire line. If you are not skilled at rigging, a newbie to this type of fishing can just purchase rigged ballyhoo at the bait shop and be done with it. Slip a skirt over the rigged bait and go for it! Don’t forget to buy some non rigged bait as well because small to medium sized dolphin travel in schools and if you troll one up, keep him in the water for a bit and look for some of his friends to be lurking near the boat. If so, tie a hook to the end of a line, place a chunk of bait on the hook and you can limit out in just a matter of minutes. Dolphin are usually found in deeper, cleaner blue water, and although they can be caught blind trolling along currents and just about anywhere, they do prefer weed lines and flotsam. Larger dolphin can be caught with live bait under the weed lines and around floating objects trees, cargo pallets and even abandoned crab trap buoys.
King Mackerel or Kingfish as they are sometimes called are another year round resident but as with most of our South Florida Game fish, some seasons are better than others. They can be caught using the same methods as Dolphin or Sailfish but require a wire leader as they can bite through most lines like they were butter. King Mackerel are predominantly found in 60-200 feet of water and tend to hang around structures or changes in the bottom contours which cause current variations. In Summer months when trolling seems to work best you may try using a planer or trolling weight to get your baits down a bit further, but during the spring there is nothing more fun than drifting live baits while listening to some tunes and munching on some chips. If you have trouble finding live bait (pilchards, Pinfish, etc.) dead ballyhoo will produce as well. Wahoo can also be caught in the same areas you fish for all these fish; they are incredible fighters and one of the tastiest fish in the ocean. You would need a bit more expertise to actually target them with bigger rods and lures. To target Wahoo, many anglers do what is know as High Speed trolling, in excess of 12 knots with lures covering the surface and deeper into the water column. Wahoo seem to be most active around the full moon.
As for Tuna, most of the species that you will catch in the areas you can safely fish will be Blackfin Tuna; they are tasty, great fighters and can be part of a mixed bag while fishing for the above-mentioned species. For the bigger Yellowfin Tuna, well, if you are reading this article, you are probably not ready to go out on your own, as they require long-range trips, better equipment, bigger boats and a good crew. But the thrill is amazing as line rips off the reel and you are holding on until that initial run has subsided. When fishing the far offshore trips there is also the possibility of running into a big Blue Marlin or a White Marlin, but that’s for another story!
So, You have some basic information now on how to fish for some of South Florida’s favorite offshore game fish. Keep in mind that in most parts of South Florida the depths you will fish may be only 2-5 miles from shore. Pick out your favorite rods in the 20-50 lb class grab a friend and some rigged baits and head out for a great adventure! A friend once asked me when is the best time of day to catch Sailfish and the others, my reply was quite simple, “anytime you can get out there!”
Schools out! Oh my god how are we going to entertain the kids and keep them out of trouble! This is a dilemma faced by many parents, especial single moms and dads. We all want to engage in outdoor activities with our children and spend quality time with them, but especially to reverse the mind numbing effects of video games and to keep them off of their Wii or Xbox for a short time. Any time outdoors is time well spent if it can actually bring you and your children closer together and perhaps have an incredible adventure as well! The warmer weather is here, and your local lakes should be teaming with Panfish, including Sunfish, Bream, Crappies and a host of others. They are all very simple to catch, don’t require expensive equipment and are actually quite tasty too!
The first thing you need to do is outfit your self with all the necessary gear, but don’t forget to also have a bucket, a knife and a pair of nail clippers along with you, they are often forgotten but frequently essential, a small towel should be taken as well. Most of the equipment needed can be found at your local Wal-Mart, Target, Sporting goods store or perhaps there is a bait and tackle shop nearby that can not only outfit you, but give you suggestions on what is biting and where. It is also important to check on any regulations or the need for a fishing license in your area. Nothing can ruin a day faster than rain, mosquitoes or a game warden who is having a bad day!
Many of the stores sell packages that contain all the equipment you will need, but lets break it down into a few essential items. The rod and reel should be relative to the size of the fish you are trying to catch, in the case of most Panfish and Sunfish and Crappies, it should be light. The rod and reel should be matched to handle line in the 6-10 lb test category. Pound test (lb test) is generally thought of as the breaking strength of the line. You can look on the rod or reel and see what it is rated for. Line that is too light will easily break if you hook a fish that you do not have the experience to handle and if it gets snagged or caught on the bottom you run the risk of it breaking. Line that is too heavy for your task will be difficult to cast and could cause wary fish to shy away. The hooks should also be relatively light a size 8 should do the job nicely, remember, the higher the number the smaller the hook. Tie the hook to the end of the line and you are half way home! You next need to place a bobber a few feet above the hook. How high above the hook really depends on how deep is the water you are fishing. The size of the bobber should not be large for these fish. Remember you want it to float the bait at a particular depth yet be light enough to be pulled under to indicate a fish strike. Sometimes very small weights attached to the line called split shot can help. I’d start off with the bobber about 2 feet above the hook and adjust from there, a very small split shot the size of a small bb should be in between the float and hook.
For the species of fish you are targeting, just about anything will work. Sunfish and Bream are not all that picky and are usually in great numbers. Try different things, usually a worm or a piece of a worm is sure to bring results and can be purchased at most of the stores mentioned earlier. You can even make the adventure bigger by first going on a worm hunt to catch your own bait. If all else fails, almost anything that will fit on the hook may work. I’ve even seen Panfish caught using Pillsbury dough and pieces of a hot dog!
Now comes the most complicated aspect of the adventure, where to fish? Just about any body of water should do as most lakes and streams have something swimming in them. If you can’t ask the local bait shop owner then just look on a map, find a nearby lake and head out, in short order you should be others fishing there as well. Most anglers will be happy to assist newcomers, but be careful not to crowd them, remember they are here to catch fish too. If you don’t see anyone else fishing, look around for any spots that are flat and near the water, you may even see things left behind by previous anglers in that spot, if not go ahead and try anyway, you may be lucky enough to find your very own honey hole or hotspot. Just cast your line out a few yards from shore and wait it out, I prefer water that is about 5-8 feet deep for Panfish.
Finally, this is about fishing, not necessarily catching. Although catching a fish with your son or daughter will highlight a great day, it is more about spending time together outdoors. Our children miss so much when their world revolves around a TV or video games and we miss so much in being able to spend time with them. Let your inner child loose and take a kid fishing!