by Capt. Tom Van Horn
I can't help but get excited about the many different angling opportunities spring brings to the Indian River Coast of Florida. I'm always grateful and blessed to live, breath, and fish on the east central coast of Florida, and with the windy March behind us, I'm ready to set the hook.
Some of highlights of fishing on Florida's east central coast during the spring are: the weather is still cool and enjoyable, and as the waters warm up the fish begin to shift into their feeding mood. Some examples of this behavior are the cobia moving north up the coast, and the spotted sea trout moving into their traditional spawning areas on the inshore flats. Like many saltwater species, the cobia and sea trout spawn in aggregations or groups, not on beds. In the case of the cobia, traditional spawning areas are off of the central east coast of the US, and in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
As the fish migrate north, they burn energy and feed heavily along the way, hence the cobia run we are currently experiencing. On the flats, the smaller male sea trout move up into the shallows first, and then call the females in to spawn by drumming loudly just after dusk when the conditions are right, usually around the beginning of the first new moon or full moon in April, and then again on the new and full moons throughout the summer.
On the lagoon flats, fish inthe early morning and late evening with your favorite top water plugs for extreme trout and redfish action, and soft plastics and jigs in deeper water, 2 to 3 feet after the midday sun settles in. April is the month when sea trout become egg laden for the spawn, so it's very important to handle and release the larger females with great care. Water levels on the Mosquito Lagoon remain very low with clear conditions and both redfish and black drum fishing should remain good as long as the clear conditions last.
Offshore, April marks the beginning of the fishing season for most blue water anglers. It represents the start of the April/May northern migration of dolphin in deeper water, 120 feet and beyond and usually brings in some of the largest bulls taken all year. April also marks the beginning of the Easter kingfish run on the near-shore reef outside Port Canaveral. It's the time of year when most of the larger kings, 30 to 50 pounds, are taken off 8A Reef, and Pelican Flats.
Moving in near-shore, tripletail should become more dependable, and look for late season cobia as well. The cobia run thus far has been so so; with bait pods (Atlantic menhaden or pogies) arriving late this year. As the bait pod move in, look for Spanish mackerel, bluefish, redfish, giant jack crevalle, sharks, and smoker kings. Concentrate your efforts in areas of bait pods. When you see areas of bait balled up and pushed to the surface, there is a high probability that feeding gamefish are pressuring the bait from underneath.
In the inlets, look for good numbers of flounder, sheepshead and black drum around structure such as jetties and docks, and Spanish mackerel, blues, and large jacks in open water. Also look for the nighttime snook and tarpon action to heat up in the Sebastian Inlet.
In the freshwater lakes and rivers, largemouth and striped bass action has will heat up on the St Johns River. Look for schooling bass at first light feeding on treadfin shad from the Osteen Bridge to Lake Harney. My favorite locations are in the river bends near the power lines at Lemon Bluff and at the south end of Lake Harney were the St Johns Riiver dumps in.
A good way to locate these schooling fish is to look for white pelicans and other wading birds congregating along the shore. When in the feeding mode, these fish will take most swim plugs, and small live shiners. Also, several years back we caught southern flounder in Lake Harney fishing treadfin shad on the bottom under the schooling bass.
Also, spring is the time of year the larger catfish move up the river and into the creeks following the rising water. I know to most, they’re not a glamour species, but try telling my good friend Mike Murray that. Lastly, the bluegill and brim will be spawning soon on the lakes, so look for popping bug fly fishing to heat up in our local Central Florida lakes.
As always, if you have any questions or need help, please contact me.
Good luck and good fishing,
Captain Tom Van Horn
Mosquito Coast Fishing Charters
(407) 416-1187 on the water