Summer fishing the backcountry menu includes snook, tarpon, redfish, trout and sharks, plus a few surprise entrées.
Offshore, the choices are many—grouper and snapper for the bottom fisherman, cobia, permit and barracuda for the wreck fisherman, and for the Anglers who likes to hunt his fish, there are tarpon and permit. Sharks are everywhere
Snook have moved both out of the backcountry and in from the offshore structures and are gathering in the passes to spawn around the new and full moons.
Tarpon join these snook in the passes to feed, as do sharks. This creates quite an exciting fishery.
Well-known passes such as Gordon and Caxambas are legendary at this time of year.
From April through August, Boca Grande Pass is home of the world's largest tarpon population. Fishing charters prefer soft plastic lures and have found it to be the easiest way to catch tarpon in Boca Grande Pass.
I prefer the more obscure passes and cuts south of Marco Island. These passes hold fewer fish, but less boat traffic and the raw beauty of the general area makes the extra travel time worthwhile.
Dawn and dusk are certainly the best fishing times. Night fishing can be wonderful. Both high and low tides are good, but the current must be moving. Some tarpon will hit on the slack tide, but the snook seem to sleep during this time.
Best results for sight fishing are usually in the bays just inside the passes where the water washes baitfish against the bank.
Outside beaches can also be very good. Keewaydin Island just south of Gordon Pass is a great beach to fish as is the long beach north of Cape Romano.
When working these beaches keep one eye offshore. Large schools of baitfish gather just offshore in June, and this seafood buffet is a favorite dinner of roaming tarpon.
These are not baby tarpon. These are the big boys with fish often weighing well over 100 pounds.
When you see the fish rolling in the schools of bait, approach quietly. Even a trolling motor might spook the fish.
Drift among the tarpon while casting large streamers or big plugs, or better yet, pitch out a lively blue runner, pinfish or thread herring. Some anglers fish livies under floats, while others freeline them.
One-hundred-pound leader and super-sharp hooks attached to 20- or 30-pound-test line makes for ideal terminal tackle. Then just hang on, bow to the king when he jumps and enjoy the second-best 30 minutes of your life.
Offshore, large red grouper move closer to shore mostly in waters 40 to 50 feet deep, and on out to 60 feet or more.
Mangrove and lane snapper will mix in with the reds. All can be caught over hard-bottom areas.
Schools of barracuda will cover the wrecks, and these insane, snaggle-toothed beasts provide a fun, if not slightly dangerous, fishery.
Toss a tube lure out on 15-pound-test line, smoke it through the monsters and prepare yourself. These fish are unpredictable.
A more docile adversary on the wrecks in June is the cobia. A cobia will not jump through the side of the boat or bite you in the neck, but it is still quite a gamefish.
Besides being excellent fighters, cobia are excellent table fare. Maybe to a fault. Keep the smaller fish—provided, of course, that they’re over the legal minimum length.
You need not run very far to find action this month. Go to a nearby pass and enjoy some classic snook fishing.
All of the passes will house some very large snook in June, but the pass that is most talked about in this area is Gordon Pass
It may be the busiest pass in the area as far as boat traffic is concerned, but it still attracts more snook than any other area.
Some say that this is because it is the northernmost entry of the Gordon Pass is a very snooky place. The rock wall on the south side of the pass is the most fished area.
It consistently produces fish, but anglers should not limit themselves to this wakey, sometimes crowded area.
All of the banks and points just inside the pass produce good fish, as do the adjacent beaches.
Naples Bay offers excellent fishing, and the Naples/Marco Channel is home to tarpon, redfish, pompano and trout, as well as snook.
Artificials work well for snook, but in hard-fished areas, live baits are often a necessity.
Live shiners are numerous and can be cast netted right along the beach and thread herring can be caught on gold-hook rigs just outside the pass at the tideline or around nearby buoys.
Once you have your live baits, freeline them in fishy-looking areas, or weigh them down on the bottom along the jetty.
It won’t be long before the action begins. There are also some very big redfish in Gordon Pass, as well as tarpon, shark, mackerel and trout.
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