fishing Forecast

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  • 02/23/2019 5:01 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Pre-spring Fishing on the Indian River Lagoon
    by Capt. Charlie Conner

    March always comes in like a lion!  You can expect windy days, but much warmer as we transition into spring.  Chances of rain are on the increase so watch the weather and plan your adventures carefully. Water temps will be on the rise this month and you can expect lots of exciting action around the Treasure Coast.  



    Trout will be moving onto the shallow grass flats as the sun warms things up.  Try a DOA Deadly Combo or live shrimp on a popping cork to locate trout.  A DOA CAL will also work well this month.  Look for redfish to be around mangroves and docks.  A DOA shrimp is always a good choice for reds.  Sheepshead, drum and snapper will be along channel edges and docks and willing to take a live shrimp.  Snook fishing will pick up around the inlets, bridges and docks.  Live pilchards are a favorite bait in March.  Mackerel, bluefish, jacks and many other predators will be coming in with the tides and feeding around the inlets and channels of the river.  Small shiny lures work best for these fish. 

    Pompano are in the river and along the surf and willing to take a Doc’s Goofy Jig, shrimp or sand flea.  They usually can be found in channels and deeper parts of the flats in March.  We have had great success on croakers the past few years.  There will be nice sized fish in the river and along the beaches feeding with whiting.  They are fun to catch and super to eat!

    Spring is almost here already.  Winter wasn’t so bad even though we complain about it.  It’s a good time to check equipment.  Both fishing and the boat should be checked a few times a year to make sure everything is in good working order.  Some of these windy days will provide a good chance to check rods, reels and safety gear for when good weather arrives.  Have a great March in 2018!

    As always, remember, fishing is not just another hobby....it's an ADVENTURE!!

    Good Fishing and Be Safe,
    Captain Charlie Conner
    http://www.fishtalescharter.com
    email: captaincharlie@fishtalescharter.com
    772-284-3852

  • 02/23/2019 4:46 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    It’s Spring, look for better fishing and more wind
    by Captain Michael Manis

    It’s easy to consider this spring in southwest Florida; but, I’ve experienced enough cold snaps to realize that winter has a way of hanging around longer than we’d like.  Even worse, some years it feels like spring never arrives and we go straight into summer. Mostly, we can count on some wind.  No matter what Mother Nature dishes out, the area is still in transition and the fish are more active.

    For starters, it ‘s been a cool winter and many of our redfish and snook have pushed their way up many of the creek systems outside larger flats.  Working the outside edges of these areas are one of my favorite places to throw a fly. Keep in mind, it’s not just the creek edges that’ll hold fish; they can be found cruising up and down the shoreline for hundreds of yards adjacent to the actual creek.  What I really like is that there are no shortage of spots like this throughout all our bays and sounds that surround the harbor.

    Because of this combination, outer shorelines and wind, I like a nine-weight as it really helps punch through the wind. I also like a weight forward floating line rigged with a nine-foot leader tapered down to 20 lb. test.  This tippet size helps keep me out of trouble near the bushes. I’ve been tying leaders with a saltwater monofilament leader material instead of fluorocarbon. It’s less expensive, plenty strong, and being a bit more supple makes it easier to work with.  

    Water temperature will dictate bait availability and consequently my choice of flies. If it warms up and scaled sardines move in from deeper water, I’ll throw more baitfish imitations. Here, a Puglisi mangrove baitfish or backcountry brown is good.  I also like deceiver patterns. If it stays cool, I’ll stick with clousers tied in natural tan, olive, and brown colors.

    When the wind does lie down, don’t hesitate to take a look outside the passes. Bonita and Spanish mackerel could be anywhere not far from the beach between Captiva and Gasparilla Pass. Keep an eye out for the birds as there’s a good chance they’ll be picking up bait that these aggressive fish are crashing at the surface.  During one of these frenzies, it’s relatively easy to get close to the school and it’s a great place to throw a fly.

     This is a great opportunity to use all those flies you tied and figured they were not worth throwing. In fact, you don’t want to use good flies. Both these species will tear them up. Moreover, without a small piece of wire as tippet, the mackerel will break you off more times than not. Too, that nine-weight will come in handy on a bonita as it’ll probably get you into the backing.

    Until next month, good tides. 

    Captain Michael Manis
    Punta Gorda Fly Charters
    (941) 628-7895
    mike@puntagordaflycharters.com

  • 02/23/2019 4:40 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Adapt with the fish
    by Capt. Joe Garcia

    With February approaching cold weather, winds and low tides are common this time of year, affecting even our deepest southern boundaries. Our fish will adapt to this and act accordingly, so to be successful we to must adapt. The manner in which we approach our fishing can change day by day but generally during the colder months a slower approach and smaller bait presentations will yield the best results. Generally, reds and trout will be the most resistant to cold and probably the most abundant in our area.

    Best bet for tackle, I am a huge fan of soft baits because of the ability to rig them weedless and I use them year-round. The patterns that have proven best are whites and the Houdini, both have worked extremely well in our area. My wintertime approach will be with the 4” paddle tail or shad styles on either a 1/8 oz. or unweighted jig or 2/0 soft bait hook. Keep in mind now that juvenile tarpon and snook have been abundant in these areas, so leaders of no less than 30lb or 40lb not uncommon on my rods. With this set up, throwing these baits aggressively into the mangroves, over oyster beds or flats will cause fewer hang ups.

    This time of year, you’ll notice fewer bait fish in cooler waters but you may see small pinfish and shrimp as they tickle the surface. It is best to work the edges of this “nervous water”. Your goal is to have that bait in front of the fish as long as possible, in the least aggressive manner and let him decide when it’s time to strike.

    In the backcountry it is crucial to look for tide flow whether from channels, bays or creeks and something I’ve always said is “we fish the tides not the clock”. Be conscious that tides in the back will generally run one or two hours behind the outer areas, so adjust your runs to be in the best position. The water in these creeks and muddy dark bottom shallow bays will also warm up sooner, helping increase the fish’s metabolism and turn them on. Historically, we’ve been taught that the top or bottom of the tides can yield the best results, but further in the backcountry mid tide may actually work best since it will have the greatest potential for moving the most water.

    Weather permitting, the beaches and open grass flats of the outer islands can also be top spots this time of year also. When fishing the shorelines throwing a 1/8 oz jig head with a white paddle tail will be solid for those snook cruising the shallows. The deeper water on the grass flats will hold trout and some stud reds. A good choice of tackle to use over the grass flats are the white soft baits or a Gulp Shrimp under a popping cork rig. Work them aggressively, with pops every couple of seconds and work them all the way back to the boat, never give up on a cast!

    Captain Joe Garcia
    Southern Glades Charters
    941-281-5881
    www.southerngladescharters.com

  • 02/23/2019 4:31 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Dynamic Waters
    by Captain Tim “SGT” Peterson


    With the arrival of the shrimp boats, comes the end of winter on the gulf coast. Like everyone knows, “Shrimping’ ain’t easy”, but it’s a sign of dynamic of our fishery on the Forgotten Coast. Sportfishing is all about the tug, but not so long ago it was all about feeding your community. In the last 100 years, we went from the old man in the yellow rain gear in his small row boat, to military grade electronics. We once relied on nature to predict where the fish were located and when they would be there.

    While fishermen are still superstitious, we have technology that tells us what we are thinking is correct, or so we think. We drive on to find that the fish are there, but sometimes not biting. How could we be wrong with all of this data? Migratory fish may not be in high numbers this time of year, but their numbers may start to increase by the end of the month. With your 21st century technology like radar, satellite weather, bottom finders, water temperature readings and even side finders, we have a good chance of finding them. Now we just need to make them strike!

    An anglers best bet to catch fish offshore in March is to go for Mangrove Snapper, Key West Grunts, Red Snapper and Gag Grouper just off shore. They can be caught throughout the water column – usually Five to ten miles off shore to be exact. Cooler water temperatures closer to shore make it easy to catch as many Red Snapper as you want this time of year. Gag and some Red Grouper are nearby on wrecks, ledges, or reefs.

    Many Shrimpers will be in town when the first full moon is here around the end of the month. Captains have all been saying that this is a weird year as far as fishing goes as a result of Hurricane Michael. In January, the larger grouper seems to have been pushed on into deeper water than usual 40-70 miles out from our ports.

    Bottom fishing is not for the lazy. If done right, doubles and triple hook ups are common.

    If you don’t get grouper right when you hit the bottom, you need to move a bit to catch them. Snapper can be caught drift fishing around structure or between two larger structure areas, but to catch quality Gag Grouper, you need to be directly over the spot.  If you are more than 10ft off, you will only catch  grunts and trigger fish all day. Divers see quality grouper living inside chicken coups, hiding out like ninja fish or scuba chameleons.

    Rigging - A Carolina rig with a 6 oz lead, 80 Braided line or 100lb mono, a 130lb swivel, large plastic bead (to protect knot from weight) and a 4-6 ft 80 fluorocarbon leader, with a 6/0 to 8/0 red hook is my set up. You risk losing a big fish on rocks, coral, or wrecks if you use cheap tackle. Some use a 5000-8500 rod and reel spin fishing combo offshore, but I prefer the good old-school Penn 4/0 Senator rod and reel combo for bottom fishing. We have caught 13 ft Tiger and Bull Sharks with them. There are many fancier options, but I am old fashioned…it’s what my elders used. You will need about 20 pounds of drag to turn the head on a Grouper diving for its life into sharp coral.

    Popular baits include live Pinfish along with fresh flash frozen Lys (Herring), Squid, and Northern Mackerel. Biggest bait gets the biggest fish. The water clarity is a huge factor in  getting away with using live vs frozen bait. Because of the rivers, the water clarity can go from minestrone soup, to clear, varying throughout the water column. Don’t be stingy, put plenty of bait on your hooks. People ask me why I often use large hooks. It’s so I can put a ton of bait on the hook. You also have better chance of boating a toothy critter.

    I was never a fan of using frozen bait, that is until an old timer with less hair than Michael Jordan told me he caught most of his fish with it. If I have learned anything in my years of mistakes, it’s that it’s best to listen to the old timers who have already paid the price of learning these lessons. Fresh flash frozen bait is key. If you fish with bait that is small, or cut it in half, you will not catch quality fish. Score your bait (without blood is key) to let off more scent. Go big or go home for big fish! With that said, I am sticking with my elders’ way of doing things, except for all my fancy electronics. I won’t leave the dock without them.

    Until next month, practice your Fish Jitsu.

    Captain Tim Peterson
    Captain ‘SGT’ Peterson’s - “More than just fishing”
    captsgtpetersons.com
    tim@sgtpeterson.com

  • 02/01/2019 5:14 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Winter Wonderlandby Captain Tim “SGT” Peterson

    With the end of the winter season, comes amazing fishing. While the migratory fish may not be in high numbers this time of year, an anglers best bet is to catch Red Snapper and Gag Grouper close to shore. Three to four miles off shore, you can catch as many Red Snapper as you want this time of year (2019 Season TBD). Gag and some Red Grouper are right beneath them if you are on hard bottom. Mangrove Snapper, Cuberera Snapper, White Grunts, Black Sea Bass can all be caught closer to the Islands this time of year. All make excellent table fair. Amberjack can be found on large structures in 50FT+ depths.

    Bull Red Fish (Red Drum) can be caught drift fishing the tideline 0-5 miles from the cuts between the Islands. Larger fish use every advantage they can to ambush smaller prey. They will use every trick in the book for ambush points. These tricks are fog, night, shadows, color change in water, wind, weeds, current changes, rain, thermoclines (water temperature changes), drop offs, ledges, humps, and wrecks to conceal their presence. It’s where big boys hide.

    Bull Reds travel together while feeding. The water temperature (>65 Degrees) has to be right. Drift fishing is about covering ground. Fish the cuts between the islands as they have a bunch of good drop offs and channels. They also can have a bunch of current ripping through them. These currents are natural funnels for Bull Reds following the tides, and baitfish.

    Most people think of fishing the cut as anchoring somewhere. This is not what I am talking about. You need to find the fish around the cut. This could mean being 3 miles out past the cut, or inside of it based on the conditions for that time of day. Use as many of the fish’s tricks listed above to find them.

    The more ground you cover, the more fish you will catch drift fishing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand how to hit a marker button on your GPS if you get strike.  You can often go back and get more hits. Play around with your boat speed. The fish can be lazy and want prey at current speed, or just outside of it.

    A Carolina rig with a 1/4 to 3/4 oz lead, 20-40lbs braided line, a 40lb swivel, and a 2-3 ft 15-30lbs fluorocarbon leader, with a 1/0 hook is my set up. Many use mono leaders but I won’t hear of it. You can use a 4000 Series sized Penn rod and Reel combo fishing inshore, but I use the 6000 series as these are Bull Redfish. These will almost all be over 26”. Catching a 40 inch redfish drift fishing is not uncommon. Drift with 3 or 4 lines.

    Popular baits are large fresh off the boat shrimp, and whole fresh flash frozen squid. They give off the most sent, which is key in low visibility conditions. In the winter you can chum a little while you drift fish with the same bait. Scent, without blood (Sharks) will get the Bull Reds to you. It’s my favorite way to catch Bull Reds, but it can be like trolling. You can catch 4 at once or catch one or two all day if you are not in the right place. When you run into a school of breeders, it will be reel screaming pandemonium. Make your plan before you hit the water to use their ambush points combined with low light conditions of the day for success.

    Until next month, practice your Fish Jitsu.

    Captain Tim Peterson

    Captain ‘SGT’ Peterson’s - “More than just fishing”

    captsgtpeterson.com
    tim@sgtpeterson.com


  • 01/29/2019 4:47 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    A variety of species available in February
    by Captain Tom Van Horn

    As winters go here in Central Florida, we certainly can’t complain about the weather we’ve experienced thus far. Other than some rain and extreme winds we experienced this week, gorgeous fishing conditions have prevailed, and we’ve had some first-rate catching as well.

    Inshore on the flats of the Mosquito Lagoon, water levels are starting to drop, and the water clarity is cleaning up in some areas. These concentrations make for some tight schools, but shallow conditions also make access both difficult and dangerous for those who do not know the area. On colder days, falling water temperatures force fish to seek deeper locations in search of 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 and the fish 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 is warmer. Additionally, warming water temperatures combined with sunny spring days and clear water make February one of the best months to site fish for redfish, large sea trout, and black drum on the lagoon flats.

    Offshore, kingfish are still present along the inshore reefs and wrecks, and they will remain there if 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.

    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 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.

    Finally,  windy days in February are a great time to check out those freshwater fishing holes on the St Johns River. Currently good catches speckled perch are being reported, and the America shad bite is improving. Water levels have been on the low side this year, but today we are experiencing a full day of rain which will increase both water levels and flow rate. Thus far the shad bite has been intermittent, but as the rate of flow increases, the shad will be moving up into the Econ and upper St Johns River south of Hwy 50.

    As always, if you need more information or have any questions, please contact me.

    Good luck and good fishing,

    Captain Tom Van Horn
    www.irl-fishing.com
    mosquitocoast@cfl.rr.com
    407-416-1187 on the water


  • 01/29/2019 11:33 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Fishing through the cold fronts
    by Capt. Greg Stamper

    February is upon us and that means we’ve got about 2 months left of cold fronts before we start our Spring. Last February was a great one as we had awesome weather. Of course, we hope for the same, but Mother nature will do as she pleases. Watching the cold fronts as they push down from up North and timing out the day’s you fish will be smart. Fishing right up to the cusp of the fronts moving through can bring on some excellent bites. Another part is how much the water temperatures change pre and post front. If the temperatures of the water drop slowly over a few days, fishing will still be good. Likewise, sharp drops in water temperatures can make for some tough days.

    So, what are we going to target? Well in my neck of the woods Southwest Florida, it will be mostly redfish, pompano, trout, black drum, and sheepshead. However, when conditions are right, we have good chances at snook, tripletail, flounder, jacks, and an occasional tarpon. Should we have a February like last year everything will be in play. When we get the cold fronts that drop temperatures quickly, we stick to the basics.

    Redfish will be found in their typical areas throughout our region. Although most of the fish will be below the 27-inch mark there will be some big one’s cruising in the back bays. Most fish will be hanging around the mangroves during higher tides foraging on shrimp, crabs, and baitfish. During the lower tides and outgoing tides, they’ll be near oyster bars and drop offs waiting for their food to be forced off. On calm days for anglers that are fishing our nearshore waters, you may run into breeder schools of bull reds. These schools usually hold upwards of 200 fish usually between 35 to 45 inches. Often, we’ll find these schools with the help of birds or because we run by them when going from place to place. One piece of advice I’ll give is look for muds in 20-40 feet of water as the big schools stir the bottom up when they move around.

    Sheepshead and black drum will be another top biller in February. Typically, they’ll be found in deeper water. When I say deeper water, I’m talking about 3-10 feet around us here in Estero-bay. Targeting these species can be done several different ways, however for me using crabs or shrimp is my go-to. These fish are also found on our local wrecks and reefs. I’ve ran into them as far out as 45 feet here and I’m sure they’ll be found out further. I’ll still use the same baits just a longer leader and more weight to get things down and stay in place.

    Pompano, trout, flounder, and other species such as blue fish, mackerel, and small sharks will start to invade all the cuts and passes. On days when the wind direction and seas are nice these are great areas to find action. Fishing these areas are great for kids or just those that want to have some fun. It’s also an easy way to bring home a few fillets for dinner, should customers want. Jigs tipped with shrimp work great for me and can usually get the job done consistently. Moving water is the only important part in these areas, and I don’t care if it’s coming in our going out.

    Tight lines,

    Capt. Greg Stamper
    Snookstampcharters.com
    239-313-1764
    Fort Myers, Florida

  • 01/29/2019 11:30 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Trout bite will rise, sheepshead plentiful
    by Capt. Charlie Conner

    Winter is still around the Treasure Coast. Weekly cold fronts will continue to bring cool nights and lots of windy days to the area. You can bet that fishing will still be good out on the water.  This year has been a milder winter so far with better conditions than last year.  Water temperatures can dictate where and how you might fish on any given day this month.  January was a much warmer month this year.  When the water is cold, fish the deeper cuts and drop offs of the river.  Sunny days will bring fish up in shallower waters to feed and the bite can really get hot out on the flats.

    The trout bite picks up very nicely in February.  2018 proved to be a good year for trout in the Fort Pierce area.  I anticipate that 2019 will be another productive year around the area.  CAL jerk baits and Deadly Combos are exciting ways to trout fish with artificial lures, while live shrimp on popping corks are the ol’ standard way to trout fish out on the river.  We had a fantastic winter bite in 2018 around the docks and mangroves for redfish.  On warm sunny days, the reds will sit around the mangroves and soak up the sun.  DOA shrimp and CAL jerk baits can find some hungry reds hugging the mangrove lines when fished very slowly.  Docks are a great way to find plenty of fish waiting for something tasty to drift under them. 

    Sheephead will be plentiful around the river.  They showed up early this year and January has been a great month for them.  Live or dead shrimp around bridges, docks and structure can provide lots of action in addition to some great tasting fish.  Sand perch and croakers should also be hanging around the inlet and bridges during February.  Pompano around the surf and on the deeper flats of the river can be taken on CAL grub tails, Doc’s Goofy Jigs and shrimp or clams.  Bluefish, mackerel and jacks will continue to haunt the baitfish around the jetties and turning basin.  Small, shiny lures will keep you busy.  There should be some flounder around the back sides of the jetties and on sand flats around the inlet area.

    February is a transition month on the river.  We have enjoyed more normal winter weather and the fish bite has been good for us.  Winds will still be blowing and the water will begin to gradually rise in temperature.  Fishing your lures slowly will certainly give you more action on the river.  Fish tend to be sluggish in the colder water.  Working your lures or bait slower along the bottom will give the fish more time to react to it and will result in more bites for anglers.  Have fun this month and get out fishing

    Remember, fishing is not just another hobby....it's an ADVENTURE!

    Good Fishing,

    Captain Charlie Conner
    www.fishtalescharter.com
    772-284-3852
    captaincharlie@fishtalescharter.com

  • 01/29/2019 11:27 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Working with what’s left of Winter
    by Captain Michael Manis

    Even though it’s most likely we’ll see a couple cold fronts in March, we’re moving into what should be winter’s last blast.  As with last month, negative morning tides dominate much of the calendar providing opportunities to fish the incoming as the sun warms the flats.  More than likely, I’ll target redfish and spotted sea trout and work the best available turtle grass flats. If the wind kicks up, I’ll stick close to adjacent lee shorelines.  As with last month, low tides may restrict access.

    As a result, I’ll try and get out early while the tide is still running out. This allows me to get on the flat I’d like without damaging the sea grass. The only downside is that you’re there to stay until tide comes up.  On the bright side, you might find yourself nearly alone on the flat, as anglers that didn’t think ahead will be locked out. This advantage will go away soon when winter tides subside.

    I’ll split my time between Pine Island and Gasparilla Sound and like the Pineland and Placida ramps, respectively. My favorite flats contain a mix of sand and grass and I like to work the sand hole edges. Because of the shallow conditions, the fish are a bit on the wary side. With a bright sun, they’re on even higher alert. To adjust, I’ll downsize my tippet as well as flies.

    For example, my total leader length is nine feet.  I’ll go from 25 to 20 to a 15-pound tippet using a blood knot between three-foot sections. For flies, I like a #1 or #2 and really like clouser style patterns. Particularly, around the holes with bright sun, the fish tend to stay down and the little bit of weight can make a big difference. If I’m up on the grass working tailing fish, I’ll go with an un-weighted baitfish or shrimp pattern. 

    For anglers that can’t access these areas, there are opportunities. Off the intracoastal on the deeper grass flats spotted sea trout will be active. Two to four feet is best. Pompano will be abundant on outside bar systems. I’ve always found the best bite on hard bottom like that off Cape Haze Point.

    Spanish mackerel and bluefish will be chasing bait around channel markers and artificial reef systems. Sheepshead are just about everywhere. In particular, piers, docks, bridges, and artificial reefs. I’m even seeing them all over the flats.  

    Lastly, there are always the canal system docks when you need to get out and the cold wind and low water are limiting your options. Between Boca Grande, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, there’s lots of ground to cover. I’m not a big fan of fishing in someone’s back yard; but if you have company in town, it may be your only shot. Redfish, snook, and, sheepshead move into these systems with the perimeter canals fishing best. With this being said, please be courteous and careful casting up under these platforms.   

    Until next month, good tides.

    Captain Michael Manis
    Punta Gorda Fly Charters
    (941) 628-7895
    mike@puntagordaflycharters.com
    www.puntagordaflycharters.com

  • 12/30/2018 4:54 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Central Florida East Coast Fishing Forecast, January 2019
    by Capt. Tom Van Horn

    As  I welcome the New Year, it is once again time to reflect on the events and accomplishments of 2018, and to count our many blessings. We are truly blessed to live in Central Florida where angling and spending time on the water are year-round endeavors. I am also thankful for another great year of fishing with my clients and friends on the waters of the Indian River Lagoon estuary and our Central Florida lakes and rivers. Thank you all for a year filled with adventure on the water, and many great memories.



    In preparation for this forecast, I first reviewed last year’s fishing photos, and I was taken back by the number of quality fish caught and the enjoyment expressed on the faces of the victorious anglers. My good friend and mentor Captain Rodney Smith always suggest I begin with the end in mind, and the end in this case is conserving and protecting the natural resource we all love and cherish.

    Before I get started with January's outlook, I'd like to provide a short recap of last week's fishing. First, the shad have arrived with over 20 hickory shad caught aboard Three Quarter Time yesterday on a 5-hour trip to the St Johns River. In early December I was concerned by the low water levels and lack of current on the St Johns, but a mid-December cold front dropped over 4-inches of rain greatly improving both the river level and flow. The crappie bite has also been very good on Lake Monroe this past week with several reported limits being taken. On the Mosquito Lagoon this past month water clarity has improved, and some decent catches of redfish were experienced.  Lastly, nearshore fishing out of Port Canaveral has been very good when weather conditions are favorable.

    January Fishing Outlook

    Winter on the east central coast of Florida cannot be defined by any specific dates, but rather by the temperature differences generated by passing cold fronts as they swing south across the state. These variations are subject to change from year to year, and are impossible to predict. On the average, daytime temperatures usually range from the 50's in the morning to around the 70's by afternoon. Likewise, water temperatures average in the upper 60's, but they can drop as low as the 50's during extended cold periods. On warm sunny days, water temperatures can increase as much as ten degrees on the shallow flats and sandbars. All these factors greatly affect the species targeted and the methods used.

    For starters, the American and hickory shad is my preferred winter freshwater fishery as they move up the St Johns River on their annual spawning run. Both water conditions and numbers of early arriving shad are looking good.  These species are easy to catch and great fun on light tackle spin and fly tackle and the fishery is very accessible especially on those windy days. Included with these species are sunshine, largemouth and striped bass, crappie, brim and bluegill, and channel catfish.

    Inlet fishing can be good in January weather permitting, with Sebastian and Ponce De Leon Inlets proving to be the most productive. There are still some reports of flounder moving through the inlets, but the bite has slowed considerably. On the inside at Sebastian Inlet, look for good numbers of pompano, ladyfish, and jacks located on the flats both north and south of the inlet.  Also, January is the month when the breeder size redfish move into the passes and feed in the mouth of the inlets during the last part of the falling tide. As the tidal currents slow down, the large redfish push up to the surface chasing baitfish. These monsters are brood stock, so please handle and release them with care.

    On the flats during the winter, redfish and sea trout will seek the warmest water they can find. Start out working the deeper edges of the flats in the morning and then move into the warmer wind protected flats around mid-day to late afternoon. An early morning start is not necessary this time of year if the weather is cold. Additionally, both redfish and sea trout love to warm themselves in the shallow water sand pockets "potholes" within the grassy flats. On colder days, focus your attention on the deeper holes using a very slow presentation. When targeting redfish and trout in these deeper holes, I prefer using shrimp imitation baits like DOA Shrimp in the clear or nightglow colors fished extremely slowly.

    Along the beaches, pompano will remain the staple for most surf anglers, with a mixed bag of whiting, slot size black drum, Spanish mackerel, and bluefish added in. Try fishing with sand fleas (mole crabs) if you can catch them, cut fresh clams, or freshly peeled live shrimp. Currently, the Canaveral National Seashore is closed due to the Government shutdown which is proof that politics and fishing do not mix.

    Near-shore, January is the month when the tripletails become consistent on the Port Canaveral buoy line, and their numbers will increase as the month progresses. The other hot item near-shore is king mackerel holding along the 70 to 90-foot reefs of North Pelican and 8A. Also, bottom fishing on deep structure should remain consistent if the weather holds.

    In closing, I wish you a happy, prosperous, and fishfull New Year, and if you care about a sustainable fishery, make it a point to share your passion with others.

    As always, if you have questions or need information, please contact me.

    Good luck and good fishing,

    Captain Tom Van Horn
    Mosquito Coast Fishing Charters
    www.irl-fishing.com
    407-416-1187 on the water


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