by Capt. Tom Van Horn
As winters go, we are in the grasp of our coldest winter in ten years and we are experiencing the effects on both the Lagoons and on the St Johns River system. Although we have seen temperatures in the low 30’s we are fortunate to live in Florida where fishing is a year-round sport.
On the St Johns River, we are experiencing one of the best American and hickory shad seasons I seen in years with catches being reported in the triple digits. We are still experiencing higher water levels thanks to Hurricane Irma and stronger currents which shad like as well as water temperatures in the 60’s which are ideal conditions. Although the water level is higher, the level has receded within the banks bringing bait fish and grass shrimp with it, concentrating the fish as well. Last Tuesday while filming an episode of Ultimate Catch TV we boated over 100 fish between us on ultralight spin tackle and fly.
Inshore on the flats water levels are extremely low, but the colder weather has created some cleaner water conditions throughout the Lagoon. On colder days, falling water temperatures force fish to seek deeper locations in search the warmest water they can find, and they become very sluggish. As the sun warms the water, all it takes is a degree or two of change, the fish will begin to move and feed in the shallows. On the sunny mornings, it is not uncommon to find redfish and trout holding in the sand pockets or potholes within the shallow flats where water temperatures raise faster. Additionally, warming water temperatures combined with sunny spring days and crystal-clear water make February one of the best months to site fish for redfish, large sea trout, and black drum on the lagoon flats. The freezes we experienced in January have taken a toll on or snook population, and the windy conditions have proven to be tough to fish in.
Near-shore, look for tripletail concentrations to improve greatly along the Port Canaveral buoy line and under floating weeds and structures, and for cobia to move in shadowing manta rays near the end of the month if the surface water temperatures reach the upper sixties. Now is also the time for shore fisherman to target pompano, bluefish, weakfish, small black drum, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel and whiting in the surf and larger redfish and flounder around the inlets and jetties. We just have to wait for the seas to settle down to get out there safely.
Offshore, kingfish are still present along the inshore reefs and wrecks, and they will remain there as long as the water temperature stays above 68 degrees. When targeting kingfish this month focus your efforts on the areas of 8A Reef, Pelican Flats, and Bethel Shoals to the south for best results. Look for cobia and amberjack to be present on the inshore wrecks like the Carol Lee, Dutch, and Sub Wreck out of Port Canaveral. Additionally, live bait is tough to find this time of year, so always carry a box of frozen Spanish sardines with you as backup.
February is also the time to target tailing black drum and redfish in the Banana River Lagoon "No Motor Zone". Unfortunately, I am limited to one angler on my NMZ charters, as I fish out of an Indian River canoe.
As always, if you need more information or have any questions, please contact me.
Good luck and good fishing,
Captain Tom Van Horn
Mosquito Coast Fishing Charters