by Capt. Tom Van Horn
Fattening up for Winter
Shorter days, prevailing northeasterly winds and cooler nights are a sure sign fall is in the air along Florida's east central coast. Another sure sign of fall is the waves of baitfish working their way south through the lagoon and along the beach as the fall bait run commences. Hordes of black and silver mullet, Atlantic menhaden (pogies), thread fin herring (greenies), and bay anchovies (glass minnows) have begun their southerly migration following the warmer waters. This migration creates a smorgasbord of yummy little baitfish shadowed by a large array of hungry predators looking to fatten up for the winter.
Weather permitting, near-shore opportunities are the best you will see all year. Along the beaches, target areas of concentrated bait schools for a mixed bag of snook, tarpon, kingfish, cobia, jack crevalle, oversized redfish, and sharks. Additionally, snook fishing in the surf will improve as the baitfish move south along the beach. Also look for schools of glass minnows to begin showing up bringing larger Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and tarpon with them.
In and around the inlets of Ponce, Port Canaveral and Sebastian Inlets look for flounder, snook, jack crevalle and oversized redfish feeding on migrating baitfish along the jetties and just outside the inlets. Easterly swells, falling tides, and aggressive anglers can make for sporty angling conditions in the Sebastian and Ponce Inlets, so please pay attention, keep the engine running with someone at the helm, be patient and enjoy the rewards.
In the North Indian River and Mosquito Lagoons, higher water levels will allow anglers to venture into areas normally inaccessible during the spring and summer months. Look for slot redfish in close to the grassy edges along the shoreline shadowing pods of finger mullet, and for the larger redfish staged in deeper water ambush sites where migrating mullet are forced to venture out from the safety of the shallow flats. In deeper water areas, look for ladyfish, spotted sea trout, jacks, and tarpon feeding on schools of glass minnows.
These schools of fish are easily located by watching for bird and fish activity. Once located, these schools will produce explosive action on small top water plugs, or popping bug flies. Also, if you locate a school of the larger black mullet, try fishing spoons or soft plastic baits deep under the school. Even though, mullet are vegetarians, redfish and sea trout will often mingle in feeding on shrimp and crabs kicked up from the bottom by feeding mullet.
Remember, in fishing we always try to match the hatch, or in this case the migration, so mullet imitation lures will be you key to success. For larger redfish, tarpon and snook, I suggest the DOA BFL or Bait Buster and if toothy fish are in the mix, switch to hard baits like the Rapala Skitter Walk or Sub Walker.
As always, if you have any questions or need more information, please contact me.
Good luck and good fishing,
Captain Tom Van Horn
Mosquito Coast Fishing Charters
407-416-1187 on the water