Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota, FL Fly Fishing Forecast for July 2018
Tarpon will be a good option this month. Some of the best action will be with trout, blues, pompano and more on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Catch and release night snook fishing in the ICW or in the surf should also be good options. With water temperatures pushing 90 degrees, shallow water action for reds and big trout will be best early and late in the day.
Tarpon fishing should be good in the coastal gulf this month, although May and June were below average. Record rainfall in May caused rough and dirty water causing some cancellations and poor conditions on other trips. Then red tide, fueled by runoff, reared its ugly head in June pushing large numbers of tarpon out to deeper water. That being said, July is my favorite month to fly fish for tarpon. Large schools of tarpon will dwindle in size and numbers to singles, doubles and small schools of post spawn fish. I usually find tarpon to be aggressive and curious in July, with spawning completed and after a long migration, they usually feed aggressively. The tactics are the same as earlier in the season, anchoring or staking out on travel routes, although fish are in a better mood. Unlike the large tarpon schools that we see around full and new moon phases in June, July fish are usually aggressive. Large schools of tarpon are impressive, but if you spook the lead fish you will spook all of them. Smaller baitfish, shrimp and crab patterns seem to work well late in the season.
Tarpon will thin out towards the end of the month as they begin to move to inside waters of Sarasota Bay, Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor. They move into these areas to rest and feed following spawning where they can be targeted in these areas with flies. Also look for tarpon feeding in schools of “breaking” ladyfish in these areas. I have done well fishing inside areas late in the season with wide profile flies, such as Lefty’s Deceiver or EP flies. When tarpon show up to feed in ladyfish schools, cast to feeding tarpon and strip the fly very slowly to present a large profile to fish cruising the edges of the school and to avoid ladyfish bites.
Catch and release snook fishing will also be a good option this month. With very warm water this time of year, it is important to use tackle heavy enough to land them quickly. Fly anglers should do well with clear intermediate sink tip lines and wide profile flies, such as Lefty’s Deceiver or EP flies, since larger baitfish may be more predominant. Docks and bridges close to passes should be the best ones. You’ll also find snook in the surf, where you can walk along the beach and sight cast to them in shallow water. The same flies that work at night usually also work in the surf, although be observant of the size baits that are present in the area you are fishing so you can “match the hatch”.
Reds should be very active in shallow water this month, although redfish action has been below average for some time. With plentiful baitfish and higher tides, they should spend more time feeding over shallow grass flats. Look for them along the edges of bars or in potholes when the tide is low or along mangrove shorelines and around oyster bars when the tide is high. You’ll also find big trout in many of the same areas where you find reds, but the bite for big trout is usually best early or late in the day. I tie my Grassett Flats Minnow in a larger size this time of year to match the size and profile of pilchards or pinfish that are plentiful. Fly poppers and Gurglers may draw some big explosions!
Trout will be plentiful on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift with weighted flies on sink tip fly lines to find fish. Diving birds or baitfish “dimpling” on the surface are signs that predators may be present. A drift anchor will slow your drift to a more manageable speed if it’s windy. You may also find Spanish mackerel, blues, pompano and more mixed with trout on deep grass flats. You’ll need to add 6” of 60-pound fluorocarbon to your leader when toothy fish are in the mix. Flats close to passes or on points that get good tidal flow, like the Middleground, Radio Tower and Marina Jack flats or Stephens and Bishop Points are usually productive.
In addition to tarpon, you might find false albacore (little tunny), Spanish mackerel, tripletail or cobia in the coastal gulf this month. Look for mackerel and albies feeding on the surface. You might even find a stray king mackerel in the mix around feeding frenzies. I have seen large schools of albies “blitz” the beach while tarpon fishing this time of year. They are usually feeding on larger baits, such as threadfins or pilchards. You might find cobia swimming with tarpon or cruising bars in shallow water along the beach. You can use your tarpon fly tackle for cobia, but an 8 to 9-weight fly rod will be better suited for mackerel and albies. I also occasionally run into tripletail in July, either around a crab trap float, buoy or floating debris.
There are lots of options this month, late season tarpon, snook in the surf or at night or fishing skinny water for reds or big trout. Tarpon fishing is usually best when sweat is pouring down your back, but you’ll want to fish early in the day in inside waters. I think we have some serious water quality issues in our state and we need to do whatever is necessary to fix it. Our natural resources are under constant pressure; please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!
Capt. Rick Grassett
FFI Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Orvis Outfitter of the Year-2011
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.