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Where to Fish in July…


The Salt Water Sportsman editors give you the top two locations to go in July for your favorite saltwater species, plus guidance regarding why the bite there is hot and why you should plan your next fishing trip accordingly.

First choice: Costa Rica
Second choice: Australia

The FADs off Costa Rica’s south Pacific coast heat up this month, and boats making the long runs are rewarded with multiple hookups daily. While most of the blues are 250- to 350-pounders, much larger ones are commonplace. Down Under, the blue marlin run off Gold Coast wanes some, but enough fish remain to make efforts worthwhile.

First choice: St. Thomas
Second choice: Bermuda

July is when the blue marlin bite finally peaks at the famous drops near St. Thomas, and these extremely deep canyons and various nearby mounts have as good a chance of producing a grander as any other fabled marlin grounds. Meanwhile, in Bermuda, blues of 300 pounds or better are on the prowl around Challenger and Argus banks.

First choice: Australia
Second choice: Panama

The number of large blacks steadily increases along the Great Barrier Reef as August approaches. Expect the best early action closer to Lizard Island and the surrounding reefs. Last year El Niño upset the order of things in Central America, but with climate back to normal, this month marks the beginning of black marlin usual peak period in Panama.

First choice: North Carolina
Second choice: Virginia

The bite off the Outer Banks is second to none this month as packs of whites are quick to attack most baitfish in their path. Keeping the rest of the baits out and circling around after a hookup often produces additional strikes. By now plenty of whites have also reached Virginia waters, where trolling rigged ballyhoo or bridled live baits in a zigzag pattern pays off.

First choice: North Carolina
Second choice: Virginia

This month, sailfish are most abundant off North Carolina’s Outer Banks and Virginia’s coast, providing a great second option for boats looking for white marlin out of Hatteras and Oregon Inlet, as well as Virginia Beach to the north. While a spread of rigged ballyhoo both naked and with a skirt in front is the norm, trolling live baits gives anglers the upper hand.

First choice: Guatemala
Second choice: Panama

Guatemala’s fishery comes down a couple of notches this time of year, but with the action also slowing down in other top destinations, the action off Izatapa, and Puerto Quetzal stays at the top of the totem pole. In Panama, sailfishing is on the upswing this month, and a number of boats trolling along the color change, 12 to 14 miles out, tally six or more daily releases.

First choice: Mexico
Second choice: Ecuador

No changes since last month for anglers looking for stripes. Cabo San Lucas is still the undisputed top option as Los Arcos and various other popular spots continue to pay off steadily. The fishing around the Galapagos Islands, off Ecuador, is not quite as consistent, but when conditions are right and fish go on a tear, the numbers are nothing short of spectacular.

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Hawaii

The wahoo bite in the Gulf of Mexico, near southeast Louisiana, is strong this month, and boats out of Venice cash in. The run of ono, as wahoo are known locally, off Hawaii’s Kohala Coast cools slightly, but more than enough fish linger to keep anglers busy, tangling with more 20- to 50-pounders, closer to shore, than in most wahoo destinations.

First choice: Mexico
Second choice: Hawaii

The banks off Mexico’s Baja Peninsula harbor an abundance of yellowfins this time of year, including some real monsters nearing 300 pounds. The deep waters off Oahu and Kona, Hawaii, continue to attract large numbers of yellowfin tuna this month, many of which come close enough to shore to provide access to smaller boats.

First choice: Massachusetts
Second choice: California

Action remains reliable, if not hot, off the Massachusetts coast. Anglers targeting schoolies with casting gear and stickbaits do well in Cape Cod Bay. Those looking for the giants have better luck at Tillies and Stellwagen banks, or at Jeffreys Ledge. On the opposite coast, Pacific bluefins still keep anglers aboard boats off Newport Beach and San Diego pretty busy.

First choice: Bahamas
Second choice: Belize

With temperatures reaching the mid-90s this month, bonefishing in the Bahamas slows down during midday hours, making split-shift fishing wise and most productive. Bones go shallower during cooler, low-light conditions, so an early or late incoming tide puts more tailers in your sights. In Belize, bones remain active, but rains become more of an issue.

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Mexico

Both Florida coasts still yield excellent snook action, but remember it’s catch-and-release only until September. Fish troughs and beaches early, inlets or passes once the sun is high. Try lighted docks and bridges at night. Belize’s coastal rivers and mangrove lagoons pay off this month, but rains turn some murky. Find bait and clean water for best success.

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Belize

The big migrations come to an end in Florida, but plenty of resident fish stick around. With most visiting tarpon chasers back home by mid-July, the latter part of the month usually leaves more undisturbed fish for those who still need their fix. Lots of tarpon still roam Belizean flats and shoals, but coastal lagoons and rivers offer more consistent action.

First choice: Belize
Second choice: Florida

In Belize, permit action comes down a notch, but it’s still good enough to maintain the small Central American nation as a top permit destination. In South Florida, the scores of permit spawning on the wrecks last month have returned to the shallows. Look for fish foraging over patchy or hard-bottom flats, close to deeper water, especially during the stronger tides.

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Florida

The undisputed redfish hot spot is still Louisiana, but with ponds and marshes baked by the midsummer sun, shallow-water action comes early, then it’s time to hit outer shorelines and bayous with moving water. Reds remain active across Florida’s Gulf and east-central coasts, but once the sun is high, most retreat to the ICW or cruise under the mangroves.

First choice: New York
Second choice: MassachusettsNew York

Countless bunker schools spread along Northeast beaches, and trophy stripers are on the hunt. Long Island and Montauk have historically been productive in July, and so have several Massachusetts favorites, like Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Chatham’s flats, where anglers
live-baiting and casting poppers or flies are bound to score.

First choice: Florida
Second choice: New Zealand

South Florida remains the epicenter of the swordfishing world, but high July temperatures dictate nighttime fishing for best results. Those intent on targeting broadbills during the day should check sea-temp maps for temperature breaks, as broadbills prefer cooler water. New Zealand waters are still the next best alternative this month.

First choice: Texas
Second choice: Louisiana

The bulk of the Gulf of Mexico kingfish have moved west by now to terrorize baitfish off the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Oil rigs and shrimp boats anchored in less than 250 feet of water are prime hangouts, but some truly large fish venture much closer to shore. Some prowl the end of jetties at major passes, letting small boats join the action.

First choice: New York
Second choice: Massachusetts

The abundance of bunker along the New York and Massachusetts coasts keeps ravenous blues on the assault. The same places holding stripers are great areas to intercept some, especially the more sought after choppers, which will pounce on a topwater or shiny iron. So think Long Island, Montauk, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket if you’re after bluefish.

First choice: North Carolina
Second choice: Florida

The dolphin bite remains strong off the Outer Banks, as plenty of fish, from grasshoppers to large bulls and cows, continue their northern trek with the Gulf Stream. In Florida, gentle southeastern trade winds persist across the Atlantic coast, creating plenty of weed lines and often pushing the color change closer to shore, bringing with it some great dolphin action.


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