Summer on the Beach
Now that it is beginning to seem safe again to be on the beach, it is almost too hot to go. Just getting from the parking lot to the wet sand can be a challenge with bare feet. The beaches further north, up by Sarasota and Bradenton have whiter sand and it doesn’t get as hot. The tradeoff is that pure white sand beaches are boring. We prefer the darker sand that accompanies seashells and sharks teeth down this way. These treasures on the beach are also a good indicator of a healthy organic habitat more fish are likely to call home. It’s the little critters that were in those shells that form the base of the food chain around here. Coquina and sand fleas (mole crabs) are the more obvious to us but small whiting and others find plenty of other goodies along the shore.
It’s the heat that both draws people to the beach and runs them off by midafternoon. Even jumping in the water to cool off has limited value with the Gulf temperature hovering just under 90F. We usually fish early and late this time of year, with a high tide. Even night fishing on a beach is a hoot when it cools off. The identity of the creature at the end of your line remains a dark mystery until you finally get it to the shore. If you do go to the beach in the middle of the day, be sure to bring sandals to get across the hot sand to the water (and back to the car). Once at the water, take them off to avoid sharp pieces of shell between the sandal and your foot. Ouch!
By fishing early or late, anglers avoid crowds and social distancing is easy. Leave the mid-day heat and crowds to the folks just there for the beach. Anglers have a better reason to be there; they’re fishing. The fish we seek aren’t fond of crowds either, nor do they like heat, bright sunlight or shallow water where most folks splash around. The usual beach crowd of fish includes snook, redfish, black drum, whiting, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel and, of course, catfish and pinfish. They all feed more during low light and darkness this time of year.
In this area, our favorite fishing beach is at Stump Pass Beach State Park. There’s a little over a mile of pristine beach open to the public. The problem here is that it opens late and closes early at sunset. These days the parking is quite limited to restrict the number of beach enthusiasts and eliminate crowding and risk of CoVid infection. We usually walk and fish down to the pass and back. On our last hike, we didn’t see many coquina or sand flea shells on the beach which may explain our limited success that day. It was a weekend and the pass was a boat parking lot with lots of folks crowded together and hanging out. We walked back along the Ski Alley trail for a ways and then opted for the breeze on the beach. Why does the walk back always seem twice as far as the walk down? A good second choice is Blind Pass Beach Park about 4 miles north on Manasota Key.
So, go early or late to coincide with a high tide to find more fish than sun worshipers. The fish that leave during the heat of the day can be found early and late in the first trough off the dry sand on a high tide. Remember that the season is closed for possession of snook, seatrout and redfish until further notice so release them alive.
If you’re going to keep a whiting, stay close to the parking lot and your cooler to ice them down...they get funky quickly in this heat.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of Angler’s Guide to Shore and KAYAK Fishing Southwest Florida, contribute these excerpts from both Waterproof books to promote the excellent fishing available in the Englewood area. They are available locally at Old Florida Gallery on West Dearborn, and for download at www.anglerpocketguides.com & www.amazon.com.