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Inshore fishing has settled into a summertime pattern, which means while angling in the heat of the day isn’t going to be your best bet, there are plenty of fish out there to be caught. A lot of bait is in the water now, and you can bet that many of these little critters are being gobbled up by something. A noticeable continuation in the speckled trout fishing and strong showings of some big pompano are the best things going, but other species are out there for the catching as well.
Trout continue to be caught on the piers, mostly during the morning hours. Anglers using float rigs are catching them on live shrimp, and those bottom-fishing for flounder using finger mullet are sometimes ending up with a feisty speck on their line. The trout can vary in size from day to day, but fish of several pounds are not uncommon in our waters right now.
Inshore, you can still find specks hanging around their usual haunts, such as bridges and jetties. Casting lures such as Gulp! Shrimp or similar shrimp-like imitations can work, but live bait is still outfishing everything else right now. There are plenty of minnows and shrimp in the creeks for those who want to get up early and go cast netting.
Pompano are a popular summer fish locally since, well, they’re here. They usually stay around in numbers during the summer, when some other species thin out.
Pompano are fish of the ocean whitewater, feeding along the beaches in and out of the surf, slurping up sand fleas. You can catch some live sand fleas to fish for pompano (kids love to do this) but most of them are taken on cut shrimp fished in the shallow water.
Pompano hit shrimp (the fresher the better) with a hard pull and fight surprising well for a panfish. One of a couple of pounds can really put a bend in your pier rod, and they are a great eating fish if you can resist the urge to fry them.
Speaking of a fish that does deserve frying, a few summer spot are showing up. Most of these are midsized spot falling to bloodworms, redworms or the artificial bloodworm imitation baits. Since the spot aren’t really here in big numbers and they will hit cut shrimp as well, it might be a good idea to hedge your bets in the surf or on a pier and fish with shrimp. That’s also a reliable bait for whiting (sea mullet) and they are hitting relatively well at times, especially for those few anglers who want to give it a try as darkness falls.
Inside, none of the panfish are really biting that well, and bait-stealing pinfish make bottom-fishing hard. There are some black drum and sheepshead available around hard structure, and night is a great time to try them out. The jetties and docks are still producing puppy drum (and some of their larger kin) and occasional big schools of red drum are still roaming about inshore waters if you can be lucky enough to find them.
Flounder continue to be the go-to fish for a lot of folks. The inshore bite has cooled off a little bit, although drifters and casters using live bait are still having some days where they score good numbers of fish, much better than last year.
Finger mullet are becoming a better choice for flounder bait, as more show up in local waters. The encouraging news is that despite a slight drop inside, the piers are reporting some nice flounder catches. Most of these are summer and not southern flounder. (If you don’t know, don’t ask: they taste the same.) And a lot of people are paying attention to the good start of the flounder season and waiting to see what the future holds for this highly regulated fish.
If you are taking your boat out into the ocean, the word is that the Spanish mackerel bite is still going strong. However, since gas prices are still going even stronger, taking your boat out into the ocean is your call, not mine.
July is not our best month for fishing, but there are still a lot of fish being caught. Just spend your mornings and evenings fishing and take a dip in the pool or the ocean during the heat of the day. Probably the best advice I can give you right now is to cast net some live bait and fish it. If you put a frisky shrimp or finger mullet right on the nose of a speckled trout or flounder, it’s an offer they can’t refuse—no matter how hot it gets.
JEFFREY WEEKS is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org