You’re drenched in sweat an hour after launching. Glancing skyward, you inwardly hope those distant storm clouds advance quickly and bring that cooler air that baking anglers crave.
No doubt, summertime inshore fishing throughout the Gulf of Mexico requires endurance, commitment, and lots of hydration. But if you think you have it tough, consider the trout’s predicament: No cooler full of chilled water, no high-end technical fishing apparel, no sunscreen, and no air-conditioned vehicle waiting back at the ramp.
Trout, and other inshore species, have but one strategy for temperature moderation: depth. And that anchors Capt. Richard Seward’s strategy for engaging summer trout.
“I like grass flats with deep water—8 to 15 feet—close by,” the Tampa Bay guide said. “When the water heats up as high as 90 degrees in the middle of the day, those trout are going to find some place cooler. They don’t like that warmer water.”
As Seward explains, investing the time to locate a fertile grass flat flanked by a channel or deep cut often pays off with the ideal summer trout scenario. Essentially, the fish can feed in and around the grass and then slide into the adjacent depths as temperatures exceed their comfort zone.
“Anytime I can find water that’s 15 feet or less with a grass flat nearby, I’ve done really well,” Seward said.
Seward said it’s hard to beat a live scaled sardine (aka pilchard or whitebait), either free lined, or suspended beneath a popping cork on a No. 1 circle hook. He prefers the former, but if the technique of maintaining a tight line while also allowing the bait to drift proves challenging for clients, he’ll switch to corks.
“That makes it easier because when the cork goes down, you know you have something,” Seward said. “I set my cork height at about four feet, even if I’m fishing in two feet, because it allows the bait to swim around naturally.”
Artificials will also tempt these summer trout, and early risers can look forward to vicious topwater strikes—often in mere inches of water—right at daybreak. Light jigs with shad and jerkbait bodies, along with slow sinking plugs, will also produce.
Seward describes his ideal scenario as early morning with an incoming tide. Cooler, oxygenated water will stimulate the shallow flat and trigger aggressive feeding.