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Hard bait, easy fish.

July can be one of the best months for anglers tossing artificial lures in the 10,000 Islands. When waters warm to their summer levels, gamefish turn more aggressive and will readily inhale topwater lures. As the day progresses and temps reach the sweltering mark, subsurface suspending hardbaits and shallow-diving lipped plugs can keep the action going all day long. Knowing the right locations can result in a backcountry slam of snook, redfish and trout.

Snook are the most responsive to noisy surface lures during July. A "walk the dog" type topwater lure cast around shallow, downed structure is almost guaranteed to draw a vicious reaction from a predatory snook. Focus your efforts on finding snook near outside points with a nearby dropoff on lower tide stages like those around Indian and Jack Daniels Keys. These exposed hard bottom areas will concentrate snook in the deeper dropoffs and potholes making them easy targets. Shallow bays adjacent to major passes can also be hotspots for tossing hardbaits to snook. As tides flood these areas, naturally hued baits twitched enticingly at or just below the surface will attract the attention of any snook nearby. As tides flood, try twitching shallow-diving, lipped crankbaits a little deeper.

Redfish can also be tempted to pounce on surface lures especially on higher tide stages. Shallow, flooded bights like Tom's Bight or Crab Key Bight will hold hordesof hungry redfish throughout the month. Often times, redfish cruise the middle of these shallow water areas and are difficult to locate. Noisy topwater baits dragged over their heads will usually result in an explosive response. On lower tide stages, surface baits can be cast a long distance over shallow backcountry bays like Pumpkin or Fakahatchee that will also find reds far off the shorelines.

Trout have long been known to be fond of artificial lures and will greedily respond to both surface and subsurface offerings. Last summer anglers reported large numbers of gator-sized trout on larger flats and outside points. Grassflats like those just offshore of Highlands Beach can hold good numbers of jumbo trout.

HUNTING Public lands hog hunting will be opening late next month in the region. Try to establish travel routes of hogs in the early morning hours and catch them as they pass from bedding to feeding areas. If you choose to hunt with bow and arrow bear in mind that hogs will head into the deepest cover after being shot and can be difficult to track. Look for open areas that allow for a good field of view to make retrieving felled pigs a bit easier. Typical hot spots for hogs in Zone A will be the southern edge of the Turner River Tract of Big Cypress and the eastern edge of the Corn Dance Unit near the terminus of Eleven Mile Road.

BEST BET 10,000 ISLANDS

A not so well kept secret about July fishing in the 10,000 Islands is the prevalence of juvenile tarpon. Tarpon of up to 25 pounds will be flushed from the tiny brackish creeks and rivers they call home most of the year making them reachable to anglers. These pint-sized leapers a re a favorite of fly and lure anglers as their aerobatics are tremendous. Locate schools of smaller tarpon near the mouths of creeks and rivers like the Pumpkin, Fakahatchee or Ferguson.

Start your search with a stealthy approach to the mouths of the creek or river and try to locate activity. A slow deliberate approach will allow you to pick off individual fish without disturbing the school. Brightly colored flies or small suspending hardbaits will draw an immediate response. Don't be afraid to change once they get used to a certain color or pattern. Early mornings are best but nothing beats the post-storm cool down just before dark especially if it coincides with one of July's late afternoon screaming falling tides.
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Title Annotation:10,000 ISLANDS
Author:Merritt, Kevin
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Jul 1, 2014
Words:647
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