Good Variety of Species Offer Summer Fun on the Water
We’ve now moved into the blistering phase of summer that can test the will of even the most ardent angler. With multiple tournaments and fishing rodeos going on, there is always the lure of cash, prizes and glory to motivate fishermen to hit the water, despite brutal weather conditions. Even with the heat, the fishing can sometimes be almost as hot. Let’s look at a few options for July.
With the kids out of school for the summer, we all owe it to them to get out and wet a line. Make them put down the game controller and get their fishing “game face” on! There are several species out there that are “kid friendly.” The first species is the white trout. Whites are mighty agreeable to a variety of baits fished on the bottom or just off the beach. A fresh piece of cut squid has caught many a white trout off the Cedar Point Pier. Use enough weight to keep the bait in place and the ravenous whites will usually set the hook on themselves.
Ground mullet will also be a kid-friendly fish. You can also catch them on squid, as well as a fresh piece of dead shrimp. White trout and ground mullet will also be available around the gas rigs in lower Mobile Bay.
Another kid-friendly species is the gafftopsail catfish. Gafftops can be found on the edge of the Mobile Ship Channel, as well as around the wooden markers of Mobile Bay. Use fresh cut pogies, fished on the bottom for the gafftops. You will often encounter the occasional jack crevalle, so use stout tackle.
Speckled trout will have moved to deeper water in the bay. Try the gas rigs with a live croaker, suspended a foot above the bottom. There will also be a few flounder hanging around the rigs as well. Use live bull minnows for the flatfish.
Because of the intense heat, nighttime fishing becomes more inviting. The lighted gas rigs of Mobile Bay will be magnets for a variety of fish at night. All of the species will hit a live shrimp. Be careful for the toothy critters that hang around the lights. I’m referring to Spanish mackerel. Steel leaders will be required when they show up at night.
Anglers are still steaming about the ridiculous 3-day snapper season in federal waters. However, the state of Alabama stepped in and scheduled a red snapper season through the month of July in state waters (out to nine miles from shore). It is still possible to boat a few keeper red snapper within the 9-mile limit.
King mackerel should be readily available offshore this month. Doug Houston, co-owner of Fin’s Bar on Dauphin Island, had this advice for catching a few kings in July. “With it being so hot this month, I like to troll for king mackerel. I stay around visible structure and use some of the numbers for structure I have collected over the years. I prefer to slow-troll live baits, like croaker and hardtails over or around the structure. I sometimes put out a couple of flat lines to pull as well, Houston explained.
“You have to up your speed to really interest the Spanish. Once you locate them, you can fill the box pretty fast.” – Doug Houston, fisherman
In addition to kings, Houston also targets Spanish mackerel. “I do catch a few Spanish around the structure, but I mainly look for feeding activity to put the speedy Spanish in the boat. I don’t use any secret bait, just the tried and true Spanish producers. I use Clark spoons, speck rigs and straw rigs. You have to up your speed to really interest the Spanish. Once you locate them, you can fill the box pretty fast.”
Those with larger boats that can make the 40-plus-mile trips can expect to find wahoo, dolphin and tuna around popular spots. That includes the Steps, Nipple and Elbow. Trolling Ilander lures rigged with ballyhoo works well doing this. Popular color combos are blue and white or black and purple.
Bass will be seeking cooler temperatures this month and to find those you will have to fish early and late. Try buzzbaits in local rivers around grass mats early in the morning. After the sun eases above the horizon, you should start seeking out shade or swift currents. The current will usually be a bit cooler than the standing, stagnant waters. Try shallow-running crankbaits in this situation. As for the shade, you should target boat docks, bridges, etc. Use soft plastics “danced” in the shade to entice strikes from bass.
Catfish will be a popular target at night for freshwater anglers. By employing the use of foam noodles cut into two-foot sections, you can land some nice cats in local rivers. Some of the most popular baits include cut shad, dead shrimp and eel chunks.
Bream will still be available in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, but you will have to target the bream deeper. Use a slip-cork rig and fish six to eight feet deep to connect with the tasty bream. You may even stumble on a few schools of crappie using this method, enhancing your haul.
The hottest, steamiest, days of July will have nice stripers schooling out on Big Creek Lake. The stripers will corral shad and dive them to the surface. Casting Johnson silver spoons or Rat-L-Traps will take the aggressive stripers.
Mid-summer can be especially cruel on the body to those who expose themselves to its wrath. Be sure to stay hydrated, avoid alcohol and try to cool yourself with moist towels while on the water. The older you get, the more you are susceptible to the extreme heat. Keep an eye on the older members of your party and stay safe.
See you on the water!
Wet your whistle on Dauphin Island
1600 Bienville Blvd.
Dauphin Island, Ala.