Making the Most of Your Fishing This SummerPublished on 05/17/2023 · 7 min readLooking for some summer fishing inspiration? Fishing expert Christian Nelson shares some of his favorite experiences so you'll have a summer full of fish and fun.
Photo by Christian Nelson
This summer, there are countless fishing opportunities regardless of where you are. From setting the hook in monster redfish at night to wandering local streams for an eager wild bass or trout, there are fish to be caught everywhere. I struggled when thinking about how I should write this article because summer is such a fleeting season. As anglers, we all know the feeling of anticipation we get when the warm days start to arrive. The world feels brand new, the opportunities feel endless, and the water starts calling our name. But this doesn’t last for long, only a few months and it’s gone. So this begs the question, how should you, as an angler, spend this time?
I often find myself in a dilemma where what I want to do does not correspond to the opportunities presented to me at the time. And to an extent, I believe we all are guilty of this. We all fantasize about catching our dream fish in an exotic location in a land far away, but the truth of the matter is, there are tons of opportunities in our backyards that we take for granted. That being said, there’s also a huge argument for making time for a trip of a lifetime!
Secrets in your own backyard
If someone told me today that I could only choose to do one type of fishing for the entirety of the summer, I would say fishing small, local creeks without hesitation. The more anglers I meet, the more I realize just how little people talk about the gems that are all around us. There seems to be almost an entire culture shift from the North to the South. In the North, small trout streams are highly regarded and treasured, but as you move south and those streams stop holding trout, it seems they are thrown to the wayside. Yet, while high summer temperatures may slow down very temperature-sensitive trout, bass and panfish welcome the rising temperatures and greet summer anglers with nearly unrivaled voracity.
The best part is that most of these waters are nearly untouched. Small creeks only 15-20 feet across are the most fun, in my opinion. To me, the excitement of fishing new waters and exploring alone is unparalleled, but it can be just as fun to pack a lunch and take the family wading or floating the creek, catching some fish in between swimming stops and sandbars. The feeling that corresponds to catching a beautiful, wild fish with cold, flowing water running over your feet is simply a feeling that can’t be recreated, and I urge everyone to open up Google Earth and check out a stream or creek near you!
My favorite setup for small creeks consists of, quite simply, the smallest gear setup I can get away with. I love throwing ultralight spinning gear on these small waters, but there is no right or wrong. I would suggest that you go no larger than a 7’ medium rod, and a reel around the 1000-2500 size. As far as bait selection, don’t overthink it! You can throw a worm under a bobber and still catch plenty of fish, but I like to throw artificial baits. My personal favorite would have to be a “rooster tail” style inline spinner. These work great in white and silver patterns with some hints of black and they trigger strikes from pickerel, pike, bass, and panfish. This makes for an exciting day where you never know quite what you’re hooked up to! Understandably though, some people see summer as a time to get away, to go somewhere new and experience something exciting. Luckily for them, summer has a lot to offer!
For most people, summer represents a designated time to plan a getaway. And while I admit to being partial to my alone time in small creeks, many anglers spend their year dreaming of when summer comes so they can make their migration to warmer water in search of the fish that filled their heads all winter.
The downside of summer in the South is the sweltering heat and high humidity which can make days on the water uncomfortable, to say the least. This is why when I’m on the Gulf Coast of Florida or Alabama in the summer, I do my fishing at night.
When the sun goes down, temperatures drop to between 70 and 80 degrees, and the monster fish that retreated to deeper, cooler water during the day are now returning to the rapidly cooling shallows to feed. This is, without a doubt, my favorite way to fish inshore, as it is easy to learn, yields big rewards quickly, and is just plain fun. It’s hard to describe the thrill of catching a dozen bull redfish off of one single light bulb along a stretch of coast, but it’s an experience that I think everyone needs.
As the sun sets and the moon begins to creep up, baitfish begin to school around dock lights, and where they go, big fish follow. I can’t count the number of times I have pulled up to a light and seen nothing but explosions as redfish and trout dart around the light, creating a feeding frenzy that seems fit for a documentary of some kind. Laying eyes on that phenomenon for the first time, casting in a spook or other “walk-the-dog” style topwater stick bait and watching four or five fish fight over it, blowing it out of the water over and over as you smile from ear to ear, sends a shiver down your spine that I promise you’ll be chasing every summer for the rest of your life. While you’re down South, you may as well see what else we have to offer too!
The bite when there’s no land in sight
Some of the best fishing the Gulf Coast has to offer is way offshore—you’ll need a charter to take you, but in my opinion, it’s money well spent.
There’s hardly a better way to ensure you have a good time and get some fish than hiring an experienced guide who knows where, when, and how to get you a tight line. Combine that experience with some of the best offshore fishing around, and you’re bound to have a ball. Whether you want to take the family out and do some deep dropping for snapper for a fresh-caught dinner or have a beer with friends while trolling for wahoo and mahi, there’s something out there for you.
This is an entirely different experience because it offers a new kind of tranquility. Instead of the feeling of nature surrounding you in a remote creek making you feel at one with your environment, out in the water you feel almost out of place. With so much water around I always find myself feeling humbled and small. It’s a unique feeling that is hard to describe but is one that everyone should experience. Beyond this though, it also offers some seriously wicked fishing! The monsters you’ll catch out in the big blue don’t play games, and it’ll definitely get rid of that big fish itch for quite a while.
Summertime is a time for exploring, whether you choose to do your wandering in a small creek outside of town, down a row of dock lights in a bay, or on a boat headed southbound. My best advice for what kinds of fish to catch this summer are the ones you can access. Take the time this summer to appreciate your surroundings, get outside, go fishing, and just have a good time. There is no right fish to catch this summer or right way to do so. The important part is that you’re out there chasing them. If you’re doing that, then in my book, it’s a summer well spent.