Whether you are a native sea salt or seasonal visitor, its hard denying the prevalence of fish in South Florida. From backcountry brackish estuaries and nearshore reefs, to offshore pelagic zones, the continental shelf, and the ever-steady Gulfstream, Palm Beach and Martin Counties’ unique range of aquatic habitats have created amazingly diverse fisheries, not to mention some pretty great angling action—especially in the summer months. But with so many fishing options, a few questions arise: what should I fish for, where, and with what?
To get some answers, we spoke with Pete Schulz, co-owner of Jupiter tackle shop Fishing Headquarters, and co-host of the ESPN 106.3 weekend radio call-in show, Fishing Headquarters, which airs from 8-9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Schulz, who has owned and run the tackle shop with his brother Tommy for 22 years, has been plying these waters since he first started high school, earning those first monofilament callouses on the old Juno Beach Pier. He became such an avid pier fisherman, Schulz began working at the pier before clocking in at the North Palm Beach fishing landmark, Lott Brothers bait and tackle shop.
“After that I went to work on a private boat, traveling and fishing all throughout the Bahamas,” said Schulz, whose love affair for fishing has translated into a life long career and obsession, making him one of the best in-the-know fishing minds in the region. Simply put, Pete Schulz has the street cred to tell you where to drop your line. We caught up with Schulz to discuss what’s biting this summer, where to get after them, and with what rig to land that prized fish.
What is your favorite kind of fishing?
Sight fishing is, in my opinion, the ultimate fishing; it’s like hunting: you actually see a species, and then try to present a bait or cast to them to get them to bite. Whether its bonefish, tuna, dolphin, or snook, its kind of like the ultimate in the sport for me.
What do you fish for in the summer?
Around Palm Beach County, from June through August, snook come here to spawn. Snook season is closed from June 1 through September 1 because they are so easy to catch in the inlet, but you can catch and release, which is pretty fun. You can catch them with live bait, throwing lures, all kinds of way. One of the best snook lures around is the Gulfstream Flair Hawk. It’s an ounce and a half jig that you bounce off the bottom—that’s where the snook are: if you want to catch snook, you need to be on the bottom.
In August, mangrove snappers start to spawn. They congregate inshore to spawn and feed; it usually coincides when sea turtles hatching and small baitfish like menhaden, baby sardines, and glass minnows begin to run along the beach and the edge of the surf. Mangrove snapper tend to hang around the inlets, any rock structure along the beach, and any bridge they come along in the inlets, and can be caught with live shrimp or any live baitfish around any structure.
Wahoo is highly targeted during the summer. It is very good three days before until three days after the full moon in June, July, and August. I don’t know why it’s the full moons, but if you really want to catch wahoo, the guys that have targeted that moon have done really well.
Most people high-speed troll—beef up their tackle, and troll faster than normal—because wahoo can reach really quick speeds when trying to catch a meal. One of the most popular lures to use for wahoo is an Iland Lure in black and purple, or black and red; and Braid’s Marauder in black and purple, or black and orange. Wahoo bite dark stuff; think of them as feeding on small tunas and small bonito, both of which are very dark colored and very fast swimmers. That’s there main meal, what they like to eat, so you have to imitate that: long leader, fast speed, sharp hooks, and hang on.
Because of the calm seas off the Palm Beaches, another summer fishery is dolphin. They tend to stay around the weed and current edges. If you want to catch dolphin, you need to cover ground, so you want a lure you can cover ground with. One of the most successful ones for around here is C&H’s Rattle Jet. It is a great lure for trolling and catching dolphin.
The coolest fishing you will ever see is a giant tuna coming downstream. Its all sight fishing, so when going for tuna, most of these Sportfishing boats have Tuna Towers that allow fishermen to see the tuna as they are cruising on the surface. Once you see the tuna—you have to see them way out—you have to turn the boat around without scaring them with the engine, get the boat going the same speed [as the tuna], and then present bait to them without spooking them. It’s a really cool fishery, kind of a lost fishery, but they just had tournament in Cat Cay, just south of Bimini.
What about live bait?
In the summertime we usually have live bait right here on our beaches. Palm Beach County has done a great job providing bait rocks—artificial reefs that the bait congregates at—with some by the Juno Pier, and off the Jupiter and Palm Beach Inlets, and Martin County has done the same thing. Baitfish will go to these rocks in big schools and hangout around those reefs. [To catch them] go there first thing in the morning, drop a Sabiki rig over the side, jig up your own bait, put them in the live well, and head offshore.
Where should people start fishing when on a boat?
Target fish on the edge—the drop-off of the continental shelf, where it goes from 120 feet and begins dropping very quickly to 160, 180, 200, 300…it drops off pretty deep. At the top of that reef, that 120, is where most of the species of fish are caught. It’s a great starting point.
In the summer, we have a prevailing southeast wind that pushes everything inshore to that edge. And with the Gulfstream traveling north, that southeast wind keeps the current going while pushing the Gulfstream closer to the Florida coastline. Everything is lined up in a row for you: When that current is pushing against the Gulfstream, against the Continental Shelf, it usually produces some sort of a current edge (one side will look kind of calm, the other side kind of rippling), a weed line, a temperature change. So if you come out of the one of the inlets, go to that current edge, the start of the drop off. That’s a good starting point to go fishing.
Where are some of your favorite park and fish spots?
Blowing Rocks Preserve
Working north to south: Blowing Rocks and Coral Cove are both great spots in the summertime. You can catch snook on the beach first thing in the morning, and/or snappers once it’s good and daylight. Snook are nocturnal feeders, so they feed last thing in the evening or first thing in the morning, so you can work lures off the beach. The Jupiter Inlet is also a great spot to go to.
The Juno Beach fishing pier (right) is an excellent spot to fish in the summer time. A lot of stuff comes through there, it’s a great place to take kids, and it is very safe. It is better to fish in the mornings when there is less heat and less chance of thunderstorms.
As you continue south, inside Palm Beach inlet, anywhere you have access is a good spot. All the bridges there you can catch fish there, whether its Blue Heron, or south at the Flagler Bridge. And Lake Worth beach and pier are excellent spots to fish if you want to catch snook; there is a lot of access to catch fish.