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Your Guide to Fishing in Tampa Bay During the "Dog Days" of Summer

dog days of summer while fishing in floridaWow, it’s hot out there. If you’re fishing in Florida, we call this the “dog days” of summer. When thinking about how to handle this heat and still successfully catch fish, I’m reminded of the dog I had as a kid when I lived across Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg. My old cocker spaniel, Windy and I would play all morning, but when the heat really kicked in about noon, he would start taking it easy. All he wanted to do was drink water and sleep. His energy level just dropped to zilch!
Fish, during the summer in Florida, are similar to my dog Windy. They are full of energy early in the day, but when mid-day rolls around, it is naptime. Warmer water puts fish in a lethargic, do-nothing state that only is changed by the weather or time of day. Cooler months usually mean brisk action to a point; unless we’re talking about extreme cold, but when the heat index is topping the 100-degree mark, don’t expect the action to be as hot as the temperature.
Here’s a short list of the best times to be out on the water fishing Anna Maria, Sarasota and all of the waters in between. During the summer months, you’ll find that these are the best times to do your Tampa Bay fishing:
1) The hour before sunrise up until about 9 or 10 a.m. Water temperatures are usually at their low point for the day, unless there is an overcast day predicted.
2) Fish from sunset on. Air temperatures begin dropping rapidly after sunset, and water temps will fall slowly throughout the evening as well.
3) Fish incoming tides, particularly during daylight hours. Gulf water temperatures during the summer months often range into the upper 80’s. The bay temperatures will usually be a few degrees warmer, due to the shallow depths and dark muddy bottoms present in some locales. The dark bottom absorbs the heat from the sun, raising the temperature. Fishing the beginning of the incoming tides will offer a time when cooler water moves on the flats, invigorating the fish and often encouraging them to feed.
4) Fish the last two hours of outgoing tides on new and full moon phases. These periods will occur every two weeks. The bottoming out tides will occur very early in the morning and after sunset. These tides will be fast-falling with good movement—always a good fishing scenario, especially for ambush predators like snook, trout, flounder, tarpon, and others.
5) Fish during rainy days. You could be in luck if you get a day that’s overcast with a constant drizzle that’s enhanced by some windy thunderstorm bantering the fringes of areas you fish. Stay OFF the water during periods of lightning. But the approaching foul weather makes barometric pressure fall, and that nearly always triggers a strong feeding period.
There are fish that thrive in the warmer water temperatures. Some of these include mangrove snapper, redfish, tarpon, and permit. Trout are plentiful, and easily targeted. While we catch speckled trout all year long, these fish become more sluggish, just like we do, when it’s hot. They may not put up a fight like they do during cooler months, but for food value, they are nearly always on the hit list.
While these hot Dog Days may be slow, patience and persistence are keys to successful fishing. It’s just like walking your dog – pick your fishing times carefully and be persistent. Eventually you’ll be successful and catch fish, because every dog has his day.