As we approach the first day of summer (June 20th), we look back onto a very unseasonable first half of spring in South Florida. Although there was some good fishing to be had, heavy winds and a cooling front had most anglers wondering what‘s in store as we get into what are usually South Florida’s best months of fishing. We asked our guides to weigh in on what to expect from now through July, based on experience and what they’ve seen thus far.
A little background on our guides
Capt. Dave Saddler is one of Biscayne Bay’s longest running guides. Capt. Dave has been putting clients on bonefish, tarpon and permit in the bay for around 20 years now. When he’s not on the water, Dave is at the shop lending his expertise and helping clients. On the other end of the spectrum is Capt. Scott Hamilton. Capt. Scott has had his hand in the salty waters of the Palm Beach offshore scene for over 25 years. He thrives in the chaos that is bluewater fly fishing and has established himself as one of, if not the top offshore fly fishing guides in the country. What follows are reports, predictions and best practices from these two guides to help you finish spring strong and have a great summer on the water.
Capt. Dave Saddler
As expected, tarpon is the first thing on Capt. Dave’s mind. Although fishing the bridges was productive at times, in general the tarpon fishing in Miami was tough from February through March. This leads Capt. Dave to believe one of two scenarios will play itself out: either the tarpon moved out under everyone’s noses OR there will be a strong, steady push of fish in Biscayne Bay and the Upper Keys from now until at least the 1st week of July, if not longer. Long leaders and small flies are key to Oceanside migrating tarpon and remember to be courteous to boats already staked up.
Permit fishing has been solid. Capt. Dave’s excited about the groups of permit he’s been seeing and only expects it to get better as we move into the heat of summer. Fishing falling tides on channel edges and flats that receive strong charges of current is best for permit.
There should also be plenty of bonefish opportunities coming up. The tides will be getting stronger soon so fishing the falling tide is best for bonefish as they will be feeding aggressively before they run out of water. Capt. Dave wants to put the rumor to sleep that bonefish will only eat in the morning before it gets too hot and in the evening after it cools down. Bonefish will eat during the heat of the day and being on the right flat at the right part of the tide is more important than the time of day.
Shark fishing with big red and orange flies is always a blast. With warm water and strong tides you should be able to find plenty of sharks popping in and out of channels, as well as patrolling flats at the top ends of the tide. Remember to always be on the lookout for big yellow jacks or permit trailing the sharks and rays.
Capt. Dave also partakes in the world-class snook fishing off the beaches in Palm Beach County. This fishing starts hitting full stride at the end of May, goes solid through June and most of July, then tapers off in August. The incoming tide from mid to high tide is best as it pushes bait close to shore. Capt. Dave likes to poll clients down the beach on his Maverick HPX skiff. This allows him to see better in all directions but requires an extremely calm day.
Capt. Scott Hamilton
Schools of big tarpon should move along the coast and into Palm Beach where Capt. Scott will be waiting for them from the end of May to July. He fully expects the tarpon to make a strong showing, unless or until there is a quick cold water upwelling.
The albie run provides non-stop drag screamage and peaks in late June. This happens along the reef in 60-120 ft. of water. Live chumming with pilchards is the most effective way to draw the albies to within casting range. Use a 10, 11 or 12 weight to help prevent from feeding the bigger fish to the sharks. While looking for albies there’s a good chance you’ll run into small blackfins. However your best chance at a big blackfin is in low light situations – dawn, dusk and overcast days.
When you think of offshore fly fishing in South Florida, dolphin come to mind first. That’s probably because late spring to summer usually provides some of the hottest dolphin action of the year. Look for singles and doubles of bigger fish and schools of smaller fish under birds and around weed patches & debris where it’s easy to present a fly to them.
Capt. Scott expects the kingfish to be all over the map this summer. He’ll look for them to crash bait inside and outside the third reef. A full sinking line should be used to get the fly to the kingfish. You can either strip quickly through the schools, or let your fly sink to the depth you need and do a “jigging” action with your rod as you strip the fly up. Follow your fly down slowly with your rod as many strikes come on the fall.
Summer winds usually come from the south and have a lot of east in them. This brings in debris which in turn brings hiding places for dolphin and tripletail. Capt. Scott will be on the hunt for debris and will have a chartreuse Eat Me fly or tan shrimp pattern ready for any tripletail he finds.
Inshore, the schools of pilchards and glass minnows will increase in size as we get further and further into summer. Look for snook and jacks shadowing these schools, mouths drooling. This is the time be throwing an intermediate line with natural colored flies – olive or lt olive over white is usually key.
If you’d like to experience first hand as these guides put their words into actions, you can check them out and find their contact info on our guide referrals page.