July Fishing Report From Rick Liles

 As we get into the heart of summer our target species change as well as our tactics. The "Big 3" (snook, redfish, and trout) take a back seat to some species that are more seasonal and, for the most part, fished very differently than our mainstays. There are purists out there that will fish for snook and redfish year-round no matter the conditions just because that is their passion. God bless them, but that's not me! As the water temperatures increase (I saw 87 degrees today), most anglers turn their attention to tarpon, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, and sharks. All four of these species are usually fished in much deeper water where they can beat the heat by staying lower in the water column. There are certainly exceptions to this, but we are talking averages here. The tarpon and shark bite are going strong at the moment and should continue through summer, but the target locations will change as the summer stretches on. Both of these are fun, but require heavier equipment and usually a larger boat to get the optimum chance at a trophy. Tarpon and shark vary on which baits they prefer but can be caught on anything that is used for other species in the bay. Though you might have to just up-size the bait. 
Mackerel and snapper are a little more popular, maybe because the tackle used is basically the same for snook, red, and trout. Both of these species love white bait, and as we get into the fry bait from the spawn, the snapper become even more obtainable. Downsize your tackle with the snapper and try using a long shank hook for the macks. The bite for both fish will also stay intense through summer and usually continues pretty well until we get a couple cold fronts. That will drop water temps, and then it's time to head back to the bushes for the "Big 3." 
So far this summer I have been doing the Florida fantasy fish camps with kids, and the deeper water fish have certainly been more cooperative than the shallow water fish. We have managed some skinny water fish, but that bite has been a grind to say the least. The nice thing about Tampa Bay and its surrounding waters is it always has something to stretch a line. Get fitted to fish during a visit to Tampa Fishing Outfitters, where you can get everything you need to attack the fish I mentioned, plus speak with the staff who have the knowledge to get you going in the right direction. Until next time, good luck and be safe on the water. REMEMBER: don't let your kid be the one that got away, take them fishing!