June is one of my favorite months because my top two fish to catch, tarpon and snook, are in full swing in the passes and on the beaches.
What makes both these game fish so alluring to me is that they are not easy to hook, and just as hard to land. There are days when you have the perfect bait, the perfect tide and the stars are aligned and they still will not bite. Don’t give up though, with patience and attention to detail, tides and moon phases more often than not you can get your chance at hooking up with these fish. Landing them is another beast. Both have sandpaper jaws suited for grinding down leader and razor sharp gill plates for slicing line. Their epic runs, shear power, jumping ability and propensity to find structure of any kind to break off is uncanny. They are smart fish and hooking and landing them is a real trophy.
The tarpon bite has been really good off the beaches. Most summers I am spend a lot of time getting silver dollar size crabs to guarantee a bight, but so far they have not been interested in having a crab fest. I have had my success matching the hatch using the szabiki to catch bait right at the swim boueys off the beach, then paddling a few more feet to intercept the tarpon that are cruising down the beaches. The key is to mix up the baits. Some days they will gorge on one bait but not want it the next. My go to baits are free lined pinfish, white bait or thread fins, a crab under a float, or cut bait on the bottom. To me the best part of a tarpon fight is the first 15 minutes, with acrobatic jumps and epic runs and after that I will often break them off rather then go through the hour plus dog fight to land them.
The snook were stacked in the passes in late may, but now have spread out over the beaches. Probably the easiest way to get into snook fishing is to walk the beaches at sunset or sunrise and fish working the swash channel. Most people fish out to far at the beach. The snook hug the shore line and you would be better off staying dry and casting parallel up the beach rather than wading out chest deep. We have had good success fishing the passes for snook on my charters, landing nice size snook on pinfish and grunts on strong outgoing tides in the evening. Artificials also work great and allow you to cover more ground. The key for me and snook fishing is not being afraid to get out and wade fish. This will give you an advantage because boats and even kayaks(kayaks a lot less water) displace water and sometimes this will push the fish away before you get a chance to get on them. Snook is hands down my favorite species to catch inshore. The “thud” strike, the initial run, the raw power and all out blitz is an adrenaline rush that keeps you coming back for more… aka “snook fever”. I contracted this disease from my dad fishing Clearwater pass as a kid and I look forward to passing it onto my kids.
Oh yeah, don’t forget about trout and reds and near shore mitigation mixed bag of grunts, flounder, snapper, sea bass and shark. Just plan on beating the heat early or late to beat the heat and catch some fish!!