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On the lookout.

The snook spawn is on and fish are stacked around the edges of the passes. Hundreds of trophy-size snookare holding in tight schools and when they're in this mode (and when they're not actually in the act of spawning) it's possible to catch-and-release the most and biggest snook of the year. The key is locating tight wads offish and getting baits in front of them in the turbid, fast moving waters of the passes. Redfish Pass and Captiva Pass are legendary summertime snook producers, but every inlet from Ft. Myers Beach on up to Venice holds fish. Not all the snook are in the passes. The fish on the beaches are more spread out, often roaming the strand as singles, pairs or small groups but they will bunch up by the dozens around structures such as groins, rocks or snags. Beach snook are best fished in the morning before the afternoon sea breeze roils the surf.

Snook aren't the only fish found in the passes this month. Summer fishing for mangrove Bay, on the western side of Pine Island and on the inshore side of the barrier islands. With a half-tide or better you should target the mangroves, and with lower water look to potholes or bar edges.

Most of the boats headed offshore this month will be looking for gag. Deep trolling with 30-series plugs by Rapala, Mann or Bomber in 40 to 70 feet of water will produce limit catches of mostly 22-to 30-inch fish, but many anglers will venture much farther offshore in pursuit of truly large specimens. Some gags are caught on patches of flat, "Swiss cheese" bottom, but more are taken around ledges or breaks. If you've got the boat, the inclination, and some ledge numbers in the 90- to 120-foot range, now would be a good time to make the run and drop baits to the bottom. By the way, gags aren't the only offshore option. The inshore artificial reefs and wrecks, sites in 30 to 60 feet of water, are holding permit, mangrove snapper, 'cudas, a few kings and a bunch of goliaths.

Southwest Florida's freshwater canal systems run for miles and miles and offer countless opportunities to catch bass and sunfish. Much of the action is now concentrated in the fast moving water below weirs, dams and spillways, many of which can be fished from shore. Find a likely spot, park your vehicle, and fan a few dozen casts across the current from as many angles as possible. If there are no takers, off you go to the next spot.

HUNTING There is paperwork that can be done for the coming season when Phase II application periods for many of the quota hunts open mid-month. It's also a good time to look at topo maps and aerial photos, and to work on cultivating relationships with landowners who might grant hunting access.



The best bet this month is to fish the deepest, darkest waters of Charlotte Harbor, and to do it with an open mind. Most anglers who fish the so-called "20-foot holes" in central Charlotte Harbor are either targeting tarpon or sharks.

Both groups of fishermen can have a great time since tarpon and sharks aplenty roam these areas all summer, but strangely, most tarpon fishermen gripe when they hook a shark, and many shark fishermen grumble when they have to deal with a big tarpon. If your strategy is to simply take what comes, you can have a great time, and if a cobia or a big tripletail happens to appear, so much the better.

Big live threadfins or small live ladyfish are great baits on top, and chunks of ladyfish or mullet on the bottom are good, too. Either way, be prepared to unhook a bunch of catfish. Just about any where in the deep holes can be good, but if you can set up near schools of bait your odds go up.
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Title Annotation:SOUTHWEST
Author:Allen, Ralph
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Jul 1, 2014
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