Don't Pass On the Passes
Passes are most active from April through September when tarpon gather during the afternoons. Marco, Hurricane and Capri passes to the north and Caxambas and the smaller passes of Kice Island to the south are premium summer fishing spots thanks to strong afternoon tides, which can rise or drop up to three feet.
Marco experiences two tide changes daily; around full and new moons, afternoon tides exhibit almost twice the amplitude of morning tides. Substantial schools of baitfish struggling against the dropping tide seek escape from predators like snook, tarpon and jacks.
Fabian advises anglers to look for subtle changes in the current. "Concentrate on those areas where snook and other fish can stay out of the main flow," he says. "It may be an area that seems really small, sometimes only a few feet long, but you'll be shocked how many fish those little breaks can hold."
Although anglers concentrate on snook and tarpon during summer, other species crash the party. Jack crevalle in the ultra-sporty 2- to 5-pound range distract anglers fishing with live bait. Redfish haunt the same outside areas as snook, albeit in fewer numbers than during the fall.
"Be aware that if it's a fish that inhabits our waters, it can show up anytime and anywhere," says Chambers, recounting an example of how Marco Island recently surprised some very experienced anglers. Last summer, Sport Fishing's editors held their annual planning meeting on Marco. While catching bait next to a channel marker, executive editor Dean Travis Clarke asked Chambers if any cobia ever hung around the markers.
"You mean like this one following my cast net up?" Chambers quipped. After a quick scramble and cast, editor-in-chief Doug Olander hooked and landed the bronze battler. The cobia narrowly escaped an invitation to dinner at just a hair less than the legal size limit.
Anglers don't commonly target pompano, but the versatile fish make great table fare for summer fishermen and are often found just a stone's throw from the same snook-lined beaches and passes. Scrappy cousins of the permit, pompano may be found in water as deep as eight to 10 feet and as shallow as three.
Set up a drift along current edges, eddies and drop-offs, and use small shrimp-tipped jigs to tempt the pompano. Select white, yellow or pink jigs to tap into Spanish mackerel or ladyfish around the pompano.