COASTAL FOCUS: Upper Mid Coast

May 25, 2016
May 25, 2016

Summer Sucks

E verything in life seems to be pretty much on a schedule. We always plan on Thanksgiving in November, Christmas in December, and taxes by mid-April. From the perspective of the fishing world, things are not that much different.

Coastal anglers generally march to the beat of a schedule as well, knowing that winter months signal the need to begin to retrieve their lures much more slowly for cold-water trout, and that the arrival of springtime means they should begin to search for the birds that will start to work the pods of natural bait in the bays.

Once Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, the next thing on a lot of coastal angler’s schedules is to begin scanning the water in search of that ever-noticeable smooth contrast in water surface texture commonly referred to by most of us as “slicks.”

It’s not uncommon for savvy anglers to be able to smell a slick before they ever even see it, especially if you happen to be moving rapidly across the water in a fast moving boat. To know the aroma is to love it, and once you have smelled it, your nostrils will continue to detect its fragrance from that day forward—it smells just like freshly sliced watermelon on a hot summer day.

It’s a scent that’s definitely recognizable by even the least-trained nose. It can often signify a last chance hope for anglers who may have had an otherwise unproductive day on the water. Be forewarned, however, as crab traps have been known to give-off a very similar aroma to that of the fish slick. So, always scan the immediate area for the presence of any crab traps that may be emitting this distinctive smell before you make what could be a futile commitment of time by anchoring your boat and performing a useless wade session.

Everyone has their own opinion about why these slicks form on the surface of the water above the location of a predator fish. Some say that the slick forms after the predator fish catches and swallows its prey, then regurgitates, or burps, a bit as a result. Others claim that the oily substance forming the slick is body oil coming directly from the shrimp or mullet that just got eaten.

Regardless of your thoughts on this, you can rest assured of one thing: Whenever you happen upon one of these slicks, fish (of some kind) are in the immediate area. It’s hard to tell exactly what kind of fish they may be —speckled trout, redfish, flounders, gafftops—or to know exactly what kind of prey they may have been feeding on. One thing is certain, however. You should take a little bit of time out of your day to set up a wade session in the immediate vicinity. This is especially true if the slick is very small in size, which indicates it formed just recently.

Wind and weather conditions can alter your ability to detect a summer time slick. If you’re fishing on a day that has absolutely no wind, your ability to see a slick is almost impossible. On the other hand, if your day  is accompanied by some rather stronger winds, then chances are great that whatever slicks do form are going to be rapidly torn apart by the force of the wind itself. Having a slight wind is best when you’re aggressively searching for slicks, as smaller ripples and waves provide you with just the right amount of contrast needed.

Many anglers prefer to already be wading whenever they see the formation of a new slick. This way they can approach the slick stealthily, and won’t scare the fish. If you are lucky enough to already be wading when you spot a slick, try to position yourself upwind, if possible. More important to remember, however, is that the slick is going to be on the move just as soon as it begins to form.

For this reason, pay close attention to what the tide is doing because slicks tend to move with the tidal movement. If you know which direction the slick is moving, you can determine where to pinpoint your casts over the fish that made the slick.

However, just because you place your lure right where the fish is, doesn’t mean the fish is going to bite. There are no guarantees, so if you spend 15 minutes casting to a new slick with no results, cut your losses and move on to the next opportunity.


Contact Capt. Chris Martin at 

[email protected]

or visit


Email Chris Martin at [email protected]

or visit

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