When people ask me where the fish are I immediately tell them in the water, at the beaches. Snook are there for the catching along with tarpon, jacks, Spanish mackerel and sharks.
This is beach walking time and serious snook are in ankle to knee-deep water along all the barrier islands and in the passes. Early birds get bit, late risers get a fishless stroll on the beach.
Head to the nearest nearshore or offshore reef for fast grouper, snapper, cudas, cobia, kingfish, permit, Goliath action. You name it the gangs all here and looking to bite.
Inshore we are finding nice redfish under the bushes and docks early in the morning. Savvy trout hunters are always tossing plugs for gators way before dawn.
For beginners out casting the flats on a scalding hot afternoon wondering where all the fish are, head for shade! Fish are like us as they have a preferred temperature range and when it's too hot they relocate to find comfort. Return early in the morning or fish late evening and or at night.
Night fishing a flat is a productive and exciting way to catch trophies. Pick a productive stretch of water and set up a long, dead quiet, drift. If possible, an area out and away from the gazillions of noseeums that live in the mangroves. Unless you have a gatorlike hide, wear proper clothing and take some bug juice.
I prefer throwing a really big topwater plug and working it back with a slow erratic retrieve. For night duty I rely on black plugs for maximum visibility against a moonlit sky. If I'm not getting action I'll go to white or glow. If the moon is really bright I'll switch to chrome if my dark lures don't produce. As it starts to get towards first light I'll switch back to a large chrome mullet imitating topwater.
The mullet lures being produced by Live Action Lures are really hot as well as their pinfish imitation plug offered in various sizes.
Don't forget that places like Matlacha Pass and Pine Island have large numbers of really huge snook that roam the flats at night and shelter in the shade most of the day.
On a dead quiet night, a big top water plug can be heard from very long distance by your 35-pound cruising snook or super smart trophy trout.
But remember these trophies are the smartest of the smart. They have been caught before as juveniles and are very aware of the noises that led to their last terrible encounter with humans.
A loud shoe scrape or banging deck lid, even loud talking can result in your wall-hanger leaving the building before your first cast.
Never shine lights on the water. If you need to tie on a plug or work on tackle, try to keep the lights low and work down low in the boat.
If you suspect a wildlife or boating law violation, report it to the FWC Wildlife Alert Reward Program at 888-404-FWCC You may remain anonymous. You will not be required to testify in court. You may or may not be contacted for additional information, depending on your preference.
It is important to report violations as soon as possible and provide as much detail as you can about the physical descriptions of violators, vehicles, license tag numbers, etc.
These officers need your help. They cover a large territory and risk their lives daily to keep boaters safe and protect the fish and game that we so cherish.
Do I feel bad about "dropping a dime" on someone with a load of illegal snook? Not one bit, pass the change. Those are our fish.
Stay hydrated out there and don't make foolish weather choices this summer.