[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s family fun this time of year with the start of scallop season, so grab your snorkeling gear and let’s hit the water. July is the beginning of the 2014 scallop season and the vast array of grass flats from Crystal River to Homosassa is where you can count on gathering a bag full of these tasty bivalves.
Good general starting locations, as always, are the Gomez Rocks area off Crystal River and the Bird Rack off Homosassa. If you’re new to the area, you can just look for the mass of boats and safely approach the crowd. Have your dive flag, carrying bags, masks, fins and
knowledge of the regulations and you’ll be enjoying several days on and in the water.
Another season opener for anglers and my favorite for July 1st is the much anticipated gag grouper season. Having seven months of no fishing pressure, your favorite grouper locations should have plenty on site. Typically, the grouper migrate a ways offshore during the summer months and a run to the 50ft range may be necessary to find steady keeper-sized gags. However, it’s always worth a quick stop on the shallower spots to see what’s down there, and a live frisky pin fish will usually let you know in a hurry if there’s a resident grouper nearby. The mangrove snapper will be holding on the same structures as the grouper as well, so have some lighter tackle on board to out smart the snapper. Chumming brings the ‘mangos’ off the structure and a free-lined live shrimp on a 1/8th oz Hank Brown jig head will help add a couple extra groceries to the cooler. Another great idea is to have a standby rod rigged with a jig or live pinfish for a summer cobia that may come cruising by.
Redfish are one of our shallow water species that shows little affect from the heat, and they are a best bet for the inshore anglers during these hot summer months. A good incoming tide and fresh piece of cut mullet, lady fish or live pinfish around a mangrove rocky point will put the odds in your favor. Always look for mullet activity along the shoreline to ensure a likely location.
The grass patches or spotty bottom areas in the 10ft to12ft range offer a multitude of species including Spanish mackerel, bluefish, trout, sea bass, flounder, cobia etc. The majority of the trout schools will be taking comfort in the deeper, cooler water. I prefer MirrOlure Lil’ Johns, D.O.A. cal shad tails and D.O.A. root beer colored, holographic shrimp twitched along the bottom or even dragged on some occasions, to present the baits properly. When the fish are located, it’s a good idea to have a throw marker handy, so an easy repeated drift will take the guess work out of where the fish are. This is a really handy tool and I ensure your catch rates will improve the more you use it.