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Summertime dock fishing | Waterline

With a little breeze and some shade, kayak fishing in the heat of a summer day can be comfortable. Shade is the main issue for anglers as well as for fish. Deep-water boat docks with lifts for larger boats often have roofs that protect the stored boats from sun and rain. These are great spots for everybody — baitfish, gamefish and anglers — to escape the heat.

We like the eastern shoreline of Gasparilla Island this time of year. We look for shady spots along the tall mangrove shorelines and other shade-producing structures such as docks. For most of the day, there will be deeper, cooler water here that will hold happy baitfish. Where docks extend out from the shoreline, they provide shady spots near the mangroves and flats — perfect spots for gamefish to hang out and maybe enjoy a snack before the evening feed begins.

As the suns begins to sink in the west, these shadows creep eastward to shade a kayaker staked out an easy cast from the dock. A westerly shore breeze keeps the kayak from drifting into the dock on most afternoons.

So there you have it: A warm day, a little breeze, some shade and hopefully big fish from the deep water nearby. Yes, you have to move with the sun, but that was the plan anyway. It sounds tranquil, until you actually hook one of these dock fish.

Most strikes will come from snook, black drum, flounder, redfish, gafftopsail catfish, and baby gag or goliath grouper. Any of them would love to take a turn around a piling and cut the line on the barnacles. Only a sincere effort will stop them. That’s why we suggest anchoring or staking out. It provides the leverage you need to pull a good fish from the dock into open water, where you have a fair shot at landing it. Without the anchor point, the battle usually ends with you being pulled under the dock. This is a time when reversing pedals would be helpful.

Kayak anglers using shrimp for bait should present them freelined, or maybe with just a little splitshot 12 inches from the hook. For best results, we rig our shrimp with a chin-hook technique that allows for a slow descent and upright retrieval. Hooking shrimp this way onto a sixteenth-ounce jighead works well too. Crabs will work some days, but shrimp are a sure bet, plus they’re cheap and easy to find.

Let your shrimp sink right where it lands. Usually it won’t make it to the bottom before something eats it. If it survives to hit the sand, crawl it slowly across the bottom back to the kayak, then toss it to another spot under the dock.

You can also fish with artificial lures. This will cut down on your targets somewhat. Black drum, mangrove snapper and sheepshead in particular are much easier to catch with bait.

If you are fishing artificials, like a soft plastic on a jighead or fake shrimp, try to cast well up into the boat slip (providing there is not a boat or lift in the way). Much like a shrimp, let the lure sink right where it lands. It will often be intercepted as it dives towards the bottom. If it arrives at the bottom unmolested, leave it for a 10 count, then move it just a couple of inches. If after two or three hops you don’t have a strike, bring it in and cast again. Most dock fish won’t chase a lure very far.

Dock fishing requires some persistence. Not every dock has fish under it, so don’t get discouraged if success at first eludes you. Keep moving along and you’ll find one that does. Remember that fish move with time and tide, so a fishless dock might be loaded two hours later — and vice versa.

If there is a boat in residence, don’t cast towards the boat. An impacting jighead can do a lot of damage to gelcoat, and folks get really upset about that. Also, do not get out of your kayak or go onto their dock to retrieve a stuck lure. Wiggle it loose if you can or cut the line if you must, but do not trespass.

We really like old docks in disrepair, docks with well-used fish cleaning tables, and those with live bait corrals. They all attract gamefish, but stay out a ways to avoid being mistaken for a bait thief. In general, most waterfront folks enjoy seeing kayak anglers, but some people who fish from their own docks get protective of their “pet” fish. Be considerate and move along. There are lots of other docks to fish.

Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area or at AnglerPocketGuides.com as a download or waterproof hard copy.



Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area or at AnglerPocketGuides.com as a download or waterproof hard copy.

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