About to head to your favorite beach for a summer vacation? Well here a few tips to help you land some fish in the heat and among the tourists.
Wake up early
Don't plan on sleeping in on your vacation if you want to fish the prime time of the day. Get out there as early as you can to avoid the crowds and families playing in the water scaring away all the fish. Of course, you will still have to deal with the beach walkers/runners in the morning, but at least they won't be in the water. Even then, try and find a stretch of beach that doesn't have many high rises or better yet, none at all, to distance yourself from the walkers. The further away you get from people, the better your chances are of finding fish. You'd be surprised at how close fish will swim to the shore and how many fish you will see when no one is around.
Walk the shoreline
As you walk the beach and distance yourself from the crowds, be sure to keep your eyes on the water. Both redfish and pompano will likely be hugging the bottom. Redfish are much easier to find, in my opinion. They will be a silver color with a light blue tail cruising the shoreline. A pompano is much more difficult to sight fish because of its slender shape. The black color on the tip of its tail and dorsal fin can be a give away if you are able to spot one. Both redfish and pompano could be single or with a small school. I've had best results casting at schools. The solo fish are very difficult to fool. Once you have spotted some fish, be sure you give the fly enough time to sink before stripping. Once you believe the fish is within sight of the fly, begin stripping.
If you are able to spot fish further out, or just need to wade out deeper in order to keep from having to stop casting so the beach walkers can walk by without fear of snagging them, you will likely be able to wade out to a sandbar. Don't be afraid to cast back to shore even though you are out on a sandbar. The disadvantage of wading on a sandbar is not having the height to spot fish that you have from the shoreline.
Stand on the edge of deep cuts
If you are having trouble finding fish from shore and decide to wade, your best bet on finding fish are where deep cuts meet shallow water. The deep cuts will most likely have bait funneling in and out which in turn will attract larger fish.
Suns out buns out
Once the sun rises, the redfish are the first to leave the beach and head for deeper water. Pompano will still be nearby, just be sure to keep distance from the crowds that will now be huge. In come the lady fish, jacks, hardtails, bluefish and spanish mackerel. I've caught all the above in the afternoon, all day long, in crowded beaches.
Kayak / paddle board
If you are able to get out on a kayak or paddle board, the morning is again your best time to get out because once the wave runners and parasailing boats come out, good luck. The stand up factor from a paddle board is a great asset for spotting fish. If you are interested, tarpon frequent the panhandle and alabama gulf coast during these summer months but are extremely difficult to jump due to constant boating pressure. If you do plan on fly fishing for them, bring at least a 10wt, a 12wt is ideal. For flies, bring a plethora. Just because a certain fly works in the Florida Keys doesn't mean that fly will work somewhere else. These fish are chasing large mullet and ladyfish so don't be afraid to throw big flies.
For redfish and pompano throw heavy flies and hop them along the bottom. I prefer a sand flea or marbled sand flea. If they aren't hitting that then I prefer to cast heavy clousers in chartreuse/white or all white with some flash. The heavy weight will get the flies passed the ladyfish and other toothy fish and into the strike zone of the desired species. For lady fish, hard tails, blue fish, jacks and spanish mackerel, lightly weighted clousers stripped fast will likely get the attention of one of these fish. A little orange will help attract spanish macs and bluefish.
The crystal clear water of the emerald coast has humbled me many times and if you want to catch fish you have to play by their rules. For redfish and pompano in the early morning I prefer to scale down to 10-12 lb tippet. Be prepared to lose a bunch of flies if the ladyfish or bluefish are out that early though. If you are targeting ladyfish, blues, hardballs and jacks, you can get away with 20 lb tippet.
Rod and reel
An 8 wt rod and reel is the ideal setup for surf fishing. I prefer a reel with a sealed drag to keep out saltwater and sand. A weight forward floating line will work just fine, but I prefer an intermediate clear tip fly line to get the fly down and keep the waves from picking up the motion of the fly. The cabelas line is a great line at a great price and is my go-to for this type of fishing.