Beating oppressive heat is the name of the game on July fishing trips, but the bite can be as hot as the weather.

Getting up before the sun, or fishing after dark are good options. Snook, tarpon and snappers often bite best at night. But boaters should make sure their running lights are working.

- EMAIL YOUR PICS TO BYRON STOUT: byron.stout@nbc-2.com

The worst plan is to risk catching a thunderstorm. Florida not only is the self-proclaimed "Fishing Capital of the World," it's the meteorologically verified lightning capital of the U.S. as well.

ESTERO BAY: Get Hooked Charter Capt. Matt DeAngelis reports the East Wall and Black Island areas of the bay have been good for redfish, snook and hard fighting crevalle jacks, all of which have been hitting freelined pinfish. Just off the barrier island beaches including Bonita Beach and Estero Island, it's still a good time to find cruising tarpon that will go out of their way for a small crab fished under a cork.

NORTHERN BARRIER ISLANDS: St. James City Capt. George "Artificials Only" Grosselfinger has been deep jigging with bucktail hand-tied on 4- to 6-ounce leadheads in Redfish Pass, where he's hooked five tarpon, and released multiple snook including 25-, 31- and 38-inchers on Tuesday, and a true trophy 41-inch linesides on Wednesday. The key has been fishing the first hour of the falling tide.

St. James City Capt. George Grosselfinger was deep-jigging in Redfish Pass with a hand-tied bucktail when he released this 41-inch snook Wednesday.

The Stout family celebrated a visit from brother David, of Crestview, and niece Sara Lott, of Fort Lauderdale, with three morning snapper trips to Captiva Pass. The team of David, Sara and Byron shellacked the team of Uncle Nate, and cousins James and Chuck, 13 to 5 on Monday morning. David, Nate and Chuck boated 12 on Tuesday; and David, Sara, Nate and Chuck caught 13 on Wednesday. They also released lots of short lane snapper, with everything caught on small live herrings drifted with the incoming tide along the pass's rocky trench, in about 25 feet of water.

Ken Taylor, the "Lodge Manager" of Dick's Sporting Goods in North Port, reports he has caught and released 11 snook including two over 30 inches on his last three trips to the beaches of Venice and Manasota Key. His tips on sight fishing in the surf are this week's Fish Tip.

CALOOSAHATCHEE RIVER: Debby Hernandez sent in a picture of Ricardo Castillo* with a whopper snook released last Thursday night at 10:30 at the Caloosahatchee Trestle. It hit on cut ladyfish, and was his second big snook in as many weeks.

CHARLOTTE HARBOR: King Fisher bay boats out of Fishermen's Village in Punta Gorda report the trout action along the harbor's east side flats picked up this week in both size and frequency. But on the flip side, Spanish mackerel all but disappeared. Fishing with shrimp under popping corks also produced a couple of bluefish, and a couple of bonnethead sharks over the past week.

Mangrove snapper have been biting well in Punta Gorda canal and creek mouths, and snook fishing along eastern mangrove shorelines has been pretty good with shrimp, and likely would be much better with lively scaled sardines. Anglers fishing the harbor outside Burnt Store Marina have been racking up lots and lots of snook releases.

OFFSHORE: Capt. DeAngelis reports the nearshore reefs, including the MAY, G-H and Causeway reefs, have been holding Spanish mackerel on top, and snook on the bottom. Get the coordinates here.

Three King Fisher trips to depths of 60 to 70 feet off Boca Grande Pass have been good for tasty reef fish. Lane and vermilion snappers, grunts and porgies have been the mainstays, with four keeper red grouper and a very nice 28-inch gag grouper for the braggin' board. Anglers also have stayed very busy releasing undersize grouper, but trolling for Spanish mackerel dried up over the past week.

A reminder: The summer red snapper season for anglers fishing from private recreational boats or charter boats that don't have federal reef fish permits will last only one more week, closing on Saturday, July 13. Red snapper have been biting best, way offshore, in Gulf depths starting around 130 feet.

 

FRESH WATER

LAKE TRAFFORD: Fishing activity on the Immokalee lake has been withering away, but that's not the fault of the crappie. Fort Myers angler Tony Louden caught 24 specks Tuesday, drifting with minnows in five feet of water, according to Lake Trafford Marina. Castnetters also have been catching tilapia along the shorelines of Ann Olesky Park.

LAKE OKEECHOBEE: The report from OkeechobeeProSteveDaniel.com is of good bass fishing around the lake's abundant bluegill beds, which are easily visible in the clear (albeit low) water. Capt. Daniel gets the attention of bass with a 3/8-ounce bluegill color chatterbait trailed by a summer craw color Bruiser Crazy Craw. He also recommends soft stick worms and flukes, and he sent in a picture of Trafalgar, Ind. angler Jim Pickett* with a dandy brace of bass caught Monday on a spinnerbait.

Jim Pickett, of Trafalgar, Ind. and Alva, used spinnerbaits to catch this dandy brace of Coot Bay bass Monday, with Clewiston Capt. Steve Daniel.

After the high sun slows the bass bite, it's time to break out the spinning rod and throw black/yellow stripe Johnson Beetle Spins (1/16- and 1/32-ounce spinner grub combos) to the bream beds. It doesn't take long to get fish fry fixin's with the Big O's big bluegills.

 

PIC OF THE WEEK

Sara Lott's keeper mangrove snapper was one of a dozen caught Wednesday morning in Captiva Pass by the Stouts -- her dad, David, and Uncle Nate. Photo by cousin Chuck.

Sara Lott's keeper mangrove snapper was one of a dozen caught Wednesday morning in Captiva Pass with the Stouts -- her dad, David, and Uncle Nate. Photo by cousin Chuck.

 

FISH TIP

Folks celebrating the long weekend with a trip to the beach shouldn't forget their pet rod. Here's more to remember from Dick's Sporting Goods pro-staffer Ken Taylor, who has released 11 snook including 30- and 31-inchers over his last three trips to the beaches of Venice and Manasota Key. Snook cruise every Southwest Florida beach all summer, but not every day is perfect for sighting and casting to the linesides.

Ken Taylor, pro-staffer at Dick's Sporting Goods in North Port, has released 11 snook including two over 30 inches on his last three trips to the beaches of Manasota Key and Venice.

Onshore (usually westerly) winds can make waves that dirty the water, reducing visibility. Red drift algae along the shorelines also fouls lures, so weedless baits are vital. His favorite is a 4-inch pearl Z-Man Diezel Minnow, rigged weedlessly with a 4/0 Mustad KVD Grip Pin hook.

On high tides snook may cruise just a few feet from the sand, so walking or standing a few yards away from the water can reduce the chance of snook sighting the casting motion.

HOT SPOTS

No. 1: Charlotte Harbor shorelines for snook and snapper.

No. 2: Gulf passes for snapper and snook.

No. 3: Caloosahatchee river docks and bridges for snook.

No. 4: Estero Bay's East Wall and Black Island for snook, redfish and jacks.

No. 5: Nearshore reefs for Spanish mackerel.

No. 6: W-a-a-y offshore for red snapper and more.

No. 7: Lake Trafford for crappie.

LAKE OKEECHOBEE

No. 1: Outside grass lines for bass and bream around bluegill beds.