Welcome to Captain Mark Wright's Fishing Forecast

Capt. Mark has been fishing the 160+ mile length of the fabled Indian River Lagoon System since 1970. He brings a lifetime of sport-fishing experience and over 10 years of commercial fishing knowledge to your day on the water. Capt. Mark's passion for inshore saltwater fishing began while living in Stuart, Florida at the southern reaches of the Indian River Lagoon. Here he learned the fine art of snook fishing from the area's lighted bridges while fishing at night. Here too he learned how to catch trout by the hundreds on the expansive flats from Jensen Beach to Ft. Pierce.
Presently Capt. Mark resides in Titusville, Florida at the extreme north end of the Indian River Lagoon and the adjoining Mosquito Lagoon, where the highly prized redfish reigns supreme. Capt. Mark, until becoming a FULL-TIME fishing guide commercially fished these water for spotted trout and pompano in the hook and line industry. Today Capt. Mark only guides, preferring to return as many fish as possible to the water to be caught again.
While Capt. Mark is locally known for finding the GIANT redfish this area is famous for he is equally adept at finding the slot-sized redfish that most anglers prefer. Another specialty to mention is fishing for trout in the summer months using live pigfish, which Capt. Mark traps himself.
Capt. Mark has been featured on national television on the Outdoor Channel and local Florida television shows and has authored featured articles in major fishing publications. Capt. Mark is often requested by area business to give seminars on various fishing techniques and authors a biweekly fishing forecast and report for a local newspaper. Below you will find reports from Coastal Angler Magazine (A couple of weeks after publication) as well as reports written by Mark exclusively for Space Coast Outdoors, Thanks Mark!!

Captain Mark Wright's Fishing Forecast

North Indian River Lagoon; May 2017

As I write this forecast in early April I’m happy to report the water clarity in the Titusville region is pretty good! In many areas bottom is visible in four or five foot of depth. More importantly, we’re seeing a slight resurgence of new grass growing in the shallows!
If we are lucky enough for this trend to continue I believe we’re in for some great fishing activity in May. Finger mullet are becoming abundant and pinfish are scurrying around the shallows in good numbers. In essence the “food-chain” of the North Indian River Lagoon seems stable. In fact, the few fish I’ve cleaned for clients have produced samplings of shrimp, mullet, pinfish, crabs and various other minnow sized fish too small to identify.
For the angler this means most any live or cut bait is “in season” and readily exploitable. For the most part the fin-fish are still in their juvenile stages and it’s beneficial to keep our lures imitating them in the three or four inch size range.
Clients have been catching lots of fish on Z-Man Minnowz (three inch) in a variety of colors as well as EZ Shrimpz in the glow/ chartreuse tail, natural shrimp and fried chicken colors. When fishing very shallow and having to deal with thick grass we’re using EZ KeeperZ hooks and switching to HeadlockZ jigheads in deeper water or nearly barren bottom.

 

North Indian River Lagoon; April 2017

So far this year’s fishing has been odd to say the least. The bite in the North Indian River Lagoon has been good some days and simply awful on others. While we all know this happens at times it has been more unpredictable than I’m accustom to!
Even though we’re seeing and catching a few redfish throughout the shallows the “dink trout” bite is our most active fishery. The trout seem to be on the move with a common pattern of holding on drop-off areas.
Typically April kicks off our Spring fishing patterns. While warming water temps increase fish activity it’s the rising water levels that interest me. The redfish and black drum will spread out using more of the available areas to search for a meal. It’s usually at this time the pinfish and mullet fry begin their move from the backwaters to the open lagoon.
This abundance of food items means we have lots of great choices in lures to offer our predators. You can bet I’ll still have rods rigged with EZ Zhrimpz and MInnowz (3 inch), but we’ll also be tossing Diezel Minnowz and Grasskickerz too. These four and five inch Z-Man baits are just the ticket to get that Gator Trout to open wide and say aah!

 

North Indian River Lagoon; March 2017

Low water levels indicative of the winter season should continue through the month of March. This factor serves to eliminate much of the real estate our predatory species often use to ambush their meals.
Unless you’re wading or fishing from a kayak, canoe or micro-skiff it is often necessary to patrol the outer edges, rather than on or across your favorite flat. I don’t look at this as a problem as most of the critters have exited the extreme shallows for slightly deeper regions.
I’ve been “hunting” tailing reds and black drum in transitional areas where the super shallows give way to just enough water depth to float my skiff. On occasion, especially in areas where there is lots of breeder sized black drum activity; we’ll find ourselves in two plus feet of water. It’s interesting watching these big fish move in and out of the skinny waters repeatedly during a morning charter session.
Live shrimp have been our most consistent bait. When we’re able to get close to the schooling drum or reds we’re tail pinning a shrimp to a 3/0 circle hook. If we need some extra casting help we switch to 3/16 ounce jig-head. 
Obviously, shrimp imitations are a fine option if using natural bait isn’t your “thing”. EZ ShrimpZ rigged on an EZ KeeperZ hook makes for a great nearly weed free offering. Other small soft plastics are working well too like a 3 inch Minnowz in pearl white, sexy mullet and mulletron colors!

 

North Indian River Lagoon; Febuary 2017

Lower levels and cooler temperatures have certainly helped to somewhat clean the water in the Titusville area. Though it’s cleaner than in recent times, it is in no way as clear as it should be.
The improved water clarity allows at least some visibility once the sun rises a bit and we’ve been targeting sand patches to toss our soft plastic lures across. Nothing new with this technique other than we can actually see the bottom now and we’re using this to our advantage.
The best fishing has been targeting “tailing” redfish and black drum when this activity presents itself. Most mornings the tailing stops by 0900 or so. That’s great by me because by then we can see the sand patches and begin targeting them.
While a live shrimp affixed to a circle hook is probably the best bait option for the tailing fish the Z-man EZ ShrimpZ are catching plenty as well. On the days when it’s tough to get a bite on lures we’re adding some Pro-Cure shrimp or crab scent to the plastics.
As is normal on my boat one person is tossing a 3 inch MinnowZ lure to cover the water a little quicker and picking off a few of the more energetic predators. Of course, we’ll switch both rods to what’s working best once the fish tell us their preference.

 

North Indian River Lagoon; January 2017

Happy New Year, All!
With the holidays behind us we should be solidly in our winter fishing patterns.  This basically means the redfish, black drum and gator seatrout roaming the shallows have switched to a crustacean diet.
Don’t be fooled into thinking they won’t eat fin-fish like a mullet, mud minnow or late leaving pinfish as they certainly will. Simply be aware that fin-fish are in short supply now and shrimp and small crabs are now the normal menu items with a side of marine worms, clams and snails.
Live shrimp will be a constant offering on my boats throughout the cold season and artificial shrimp will be regularly employed by those who prefer fooling their quarry rather than feeding them! The live critters will be pinned through the tail to a small circle hook and may or may not have a small split-shot added. Z-Man EZ ShrimpZ affixed to an EZ KeeperZ hook will be responsible for catching plenty by those who like to use lures.
Ruling out regular bait options like cut/chunk mullet and ladyfish will be a big mistake. These favorites work all year with the only downside being the catfish they tend to attract.

North Indian River Lagoon; December 2016

Its years end and I always look forward to December. It’s not the holiday’s I’m looking forward to, but the fishing!
Most years we see a week or two of fantastic weather at some point within the month causing the redfish, black drum and gator sized spotted seatrout to go wild. It’s anyone’s guess if the right conditions will show up early or in the middle of the month so pay attention. Once the high winds of November lie down be ready…
December is also about the time our local gamefish start feeding on a mostly crustacean diet. Small crabs and shrimp will become very important food items, though mud minnows and other little baitfish will be eagerly fed upon. I’m pretty happy keeping a rod equipped with a Z-Man Minnowz (three inch) and another with their new EZ Shrimpz. Of course, both lures will be rigged on a 3/0 EZ Keeperz hook offering a great presentation.
Other rods will be adorned with top-water walking plugs, weedless spoons usually an Aqua Ream Living and larger soft plastic swim baits like the Grass Kickerz or Diezel Minnowz.
Water levels will often dictate where we’ll find fish. High water like we have now in early November caused the fish, redfish especially, to spread out everywhere. Once water levels drop several inches many of the fish will retreat from the back-waters to the outer edges of the flats becoming more accessible.

 

North Indian River Lagoon; November 2016

November is the only month of the year I could easily do without. It’s a transition month with too many variables to try to predict what will happen.
Though our local waters don’t really “turnover” like deep lakes tend to we still experience an algae die-off that turns our water brown (even more brown than now) with copious amount of dead alga of several varieties floating about.
While this event is certainly natural and nothing to panic about I’m completely unsure as to how bad the water will look given the combination of Mother Nature doing her thing and the problematic Brown Algae we’re currently plagued with.
Even after the less than stellar preview above we will still be catching redfish, spotted seatrout, black drum and more in decent numbers. Don’t settle for not catching fish in your favorite areas. Simply stay on the move until you find fishy spots or actually start seeing and/or catching fish.
Cut bait is a great choice for those preferring to feed fish rather than fool them. Not only can the predators identify it as an easy meal, they’re able to identify it at a distance. This factor alone is reason enough to keep some dead bait handy!
Some of my favorite artificial lures in dirty water are spinners and spoons. They’re deadly and cover water quickly. Soft plastic swimbaits like the Z-Man Grass Kickerz work wonders as the exaggerated tail “pulses” through the water allowing the predators to locate and devour them!

 

North Indian River Lagoon; October 2016

October is by far my favorite month of the year as far as fishing is concerned.  The reasons are easily understandable.  Longer and cooler nights help the air and water temperatures drop a bit offering comfort for us and the fish alike. Fall water levels rise allowing the shallow water oriented redfish to spread out in the backwater areas.  The breeder reds are doing their thing in earnest. Mature tarpon can be found with some regularity feeding along the channel edges and my favorite species; snook are aggressively feeding throughout their range.  In essence, there is a lot going on!
Much of this surge of activity can be attributed to the fall season mullet run.  Finding an area packed with this important baitfish will up your chances of catching a trophy redfish, tarpon, snook or spotted seatrout!  Certainly an angler using a live mullet has an opportunity at catching any of the species mentioned above.  The savvy angler can also accomplish great catches with artificial lures and for me this adds to the excitement of the task.
When targeting the trophy sized fish some of my favorite surface lures include the Z-Man Pop Shadz, Banks Lures Fender Walker and the old standby Super Spook by Heddon lures.  Going sub surface opens lots of doors but starts on my boat with Z-Man swimming baits four inches or more in length.  Same for jerk shad type lures.  Make sure you use hooks properly sized for the larger lures.  A 4/0 or 5/0 hook tends to be too small and too short for most lures longer than five inches!
For those targeting the breeder redfish please take special care in their release. Warm water holds far less dissolved oxygen than cool water. This factor alone increases the stress of a fish fighting for its life not to mention the stress of spawning.  Additional time spend in the revival of your trophy catch will reap great benefits to our future redfish population.

 

 

North Indian River Lagoon; September 2016

In typical summer fashion we’re currently experiencing low water levels throughout our region.  Also typical is the very warm water temperatures.  Most days the water temp in th

e shallows is in the mid to upper 80 degree range and quickly reach into the lower 90 degree range by mid-day.
As of the first week of August an afternoon rain pattern has begun.  With a little luck regular rainfall will continue.
Clients have been enjoying the school trout bite using live shrimp under popping floats.  We are catching a few slot fish, though most are undersized they’ve been plentiful.  So too are the ladyfish, hardhead catfish and gafftopsail catfish.  A few jacks are biting the live shrimp and popping float combo too and have eagerly devoured Zman Pop Shadz and Diezel Minnowz when offered!
Expect the breeder redfish action to shift into gear this month.  The algae bloom may hinder our vision, but I’m sure we’ll be able to track them once they start chasing silver mullet schools.
While a lively mullet or chunk of one will certainly catch a trophy red I prefer offering them a 5 inch or 8 inch Streakz soft plastic jerk bait rigged weedless.

 

North Indian River Lagoon; August 2016

It’s that time of year gang.  The redfish spawn is upon us and indeed the pre-spawn females started becoming active in mid-July.
The dirty water has so far and will likely continue to adversely affect our visibility disallowing us the advantage sight-fishing these awesome fish in their deeper reaches.  Deeper reaches doesn’t necessarily mean the channel edges, though often the breeders will use this water.
Targeting the breeders often means covering a lot of ground as sometimes they’ll move relatively shallow to chase silver mullet on the outer edges of the flats.  Sometimes they’ll attempt to trap the mullet against one of the many sandbars or spoil islands near the Intracoastal channel.
Going back to the sight-fishing comment above; though it may be tough or even impossible to distinguish the coppery red glow we associate with schooling breeders we’ll certainly have no problems seeing them as they crash into mullet schools.  Too, it’s a beautiful sight to witness dozens of fins gently breaking through the water as they rest suspended slightly below its surface!
I love tossing top-water plugs to these critters; Super Spooks, Fender Walkers and Ghost Walkers are my favorites and I like to pinch the barbs of the hooks flat.  Soft plastic lures like the eight inch Z-Man Streakz XL work extremely well with a large circle hook affixed to the lure’s nose.  This buoyant lure can walk the dog like any hard bait and no treble hooks required!

 

North Indian River Lagoon; July 2016

Do you know how to tell its summer on the Indian River Lagoon?  The pinfish and other bait stealers chew your cut bait apart before the catfish find can it…
Obviously, this is a tongue in cheek comment that happens to be a little bit true. I love using artificial lures especially the Z-Man soft plastics and I truly enjoy those clients who share this passion, however the reality of guiding here is most clients don’t possess great casting skills nor are they fussy as to how they catch their fish.
While shrimp is available nearly all year its only one option at most bait and tackle stores. For me cut mullet and ladyfish are our most productive baits.  A chunk pinned to a circle hook tossed onto a sandy piece of bottom will get results most of the time.
Keep in mind the activity from little critters constantly reducing your cut bait’s size will often attract the attention of bigger predators that will happily steal the meal and put a bend in your rod. 
Don’t feel the need to reel in and recast constantly, wait until the nibbling stops then rebait.  Bring plenty of bait and resign yourself to the inevitability of bait stealer activity.

 

North Indian River Lagoon; June 2016

June ushers in the official beginning of summer.  To me summer always equates to great catches of seatrout.  Those of you who know me know I have a background in the commercial fishing arena and catching huge numbers of seatrout on rod and reel was a passion for me.
If catching tons-o-trout gets your heart pumping double-time you should consider learning the tricks of catching and using live pigfish.  These inshore grunts are the very best trout catching bait we have in our locale.
The simplest of tackle is all you’ll need; a rod with enough backbone to overcome your popping cork on the hook-set, a length of 30 or 40 pound leader, a swivel and a hook.  You might have noticed I did not mention a weight of any kind.  No weight is necessary when targeting seatrout on the flats as the pigfish will simply and quickly swim down of its own volition.
The key to succeeding here is suspending the pigfish at just the right depth.  The right depth adjustment is when the piggy can ALMOST swim down into the grass and hide. Suspended properly the bait will struggle greatly and “grunt” continuously which excites the seatrout!
For those who prefer artificial lures you can mimic the technique by suspending a Z-Man Scented Pogyz on a jighead below your cork.  Pop the float often giving your lure an erratic action.

 

North Indian River Lagoon; May 2016

Typically spring and fall are my favorite seasons for fishing my home waters near Titusville.  Central Florida’s April, May & June time frame is normally characterized by great weather conditions.  Cold weather is well behind us and our truly hot weather is in our future.
Favorable weather patterns with near perfect water temperatures promote quickly growing baitfish and the predatory fish which rely on their abundance.
Our water is currently cloudy like summer water; though not so cloudy that we can’t sight-fish many locations.  High winds have stirred up some areas and help to clear others.  Spend a little time looking for the clearest/cleanest waters if sight-fishing is important to you.
In lieu of sight-fishing, simply covering lots of ground by blind casting is working for us.  We’ve been having decent luck with Z-Man Minnowz swim baits in the three inch length.  Pearl White and Sexy Mullet have been out best color choices in the cloudy waters.
Better still, the bite using cut mullet or ladyfish is quite active once locating a population of redfish.  Use a 3/0 circle hook; tossing chunks of these oily and smelly morsels into clean sand spots should give fine results.

 

North Indian River Lagoon; April 2016

March proved to be a strange month in our fishery.  Water levels dropped drastically at the same time water temperatures climbed.  These factors seemed to trigger an increase of the brown algae bloom we’ve been struggling with in recent years.
I’m expecting more of the same for April unless our wind and weather patterns resume their “normal” cycles and allow the water levels to rise.
Cut mullet and shad have been my go to baits lately as well as peeled shrimp threaded on a 3/0 circle hook.  Redfish, black drum and even the occasional gator trout succumb to these common baits. Unless I have a lure only client I try to keep enough natural bait on hand to get through a charter.  Live shrimp will also account for good catches, but if the livies are ignored don’t feel like you’re cheating by peeling your dead ones!
Until the water clears up a bit the best lure choices will be spoons and spinnerbaits (Aqua Dream Living) and paddle tailed or ribbon tailed soft plastics like Z-Man Minnowz and Curly Tailz. 
Keep a rod rigged with a soft plastic shrimp too in the event you find a group of tailing redfish or black drum.  Add a dab of Pro Cure to up your chances a bit!

 

North Indian River Lagoon; March 2016

So far we’ve experienced a mild winter season with only a couple of “cold” weather fronts.  While these few cold snaps helped improve the local water clarity we are still dealing with stained and cloudy water conditions.

For the most part, the fish don’t seem to care.  Redfish, spotted seatrout and when they show up, black drum are willing to eat live, dead and artificial shrimp.  Of course cut mullet, etc. is working too and so are smallish soft plastic swim-baits; my favorite being a Z-Man Minnowz in pearl white and sexy mullet colors.

Keep your eyes peeled for tailing fish!  The shallow grass flats must be loaded with shrimp and small crabs because the fish are tailing hard in some areas.  Some days they’ll be tailing in a stiff wind; these fish are very approachable and usually not too fussy.

Keep in mind when the fish are tailing they can only see a very small area.  You’ll need to inch your offering into the fish’s field of view to get its attention.  Attempt to place your cast appropriately so as you maneuver your bait or lure into the fish’s viewing area you don’t touch the fish with your fishing line; spooking your quarry.

 

North Indian River Lagoon, February 2016

Winter has arrived in Central Florida, well, kind of at least.  At the time of this writing its mid-January and we’ve experienced some very cool weather along with hard driving north winds.  I’d call this pretty typical winter weather.  The north winds blew much of our water to the south and our water temperatures dropped into the low to mid sixty degree range.

I was beginning to get excited about these positive factors only to see the water levels rise once again and water temps climbed too.  However, these upward changes so far have not been extreme and are actually typical for the season.  The next cold front will likely drop our water levels and water temps again.   

A few more cold fronts should rid us of this persistent brown algae bloom we’ve been forced to endure since late summer.  So far, we’ll need to settle for a slow decline in the algae.  Rest assured this past front did improve our water clarity and each passing front should help too!

Shrimp is the king of baits right now as we’re actually seeing birds diving on them as well as seeing the little critters jumping out of the water.  It looks to me as we have a bumper crop growing in the estuary this year.  To say this is good news is a bit of an understatement.   Live shrimp are readily available at all the local bait stores; I use Mosquito Lagoon Bait & Tackle.  Shrimp are boat friendly as they’re clean and don’t leave blood stains behind.  Mostly though, all meat eating fish love shrimp.  Often the fish waving their tails at you in the shallows are digging these tasty morsels out of the mud or grass.

BTW, when those expensive “hand-picked” shrimp die in the livewell they’re still a viable bait item.  More often than many anglers realize a dead shrimp is eagerly eaten by redfish, trout or black drum.  Too, a freshly peeled shrimp tail is an offering a drum finds hard to resist no matter how stubborn or selective it might be.

Since shrimp is certainly on the menu now and throughout the rest of the season I’ll be keeping a rod or two rigged with a Z Man scented shrimp.  These will fool plenty of our flats fish when presented along the bottom or suspended beneath a popping float!

 

North Indian River Lagoon, January 2016

Happy New Year, Gang!

It’s officially the winter season and as far as fishing here goes winter can be both good and bad.  On the “bad” side we will frequently be dealing with cold front conditions and sun angles that are less than optimal for great subsurface vision.  On the “good” side of the equation we should have much lower water levels and cleaner/clearer water conditions than we’ve experienced in the past many months. 

Arguably these few factors listed above could be flip-flopped back and forth between the good and bad categories on any given day.  I say this because when you time the cold fronts just right you can achieve outstanding success.  Unfortunately, I have not found a fool proof method of predicting this timing and I rely more on just going fishing.  I realize our chances are diminished somewhat immediately after a cold front passes, but even this truism isn’t carved in stone.

Low water levels can also help as it tends to concentrate fish in areas where enough water depth remains to offer comfort and cover.  Where low water levels work against us is it can put acre upon acre of water off-limits to most of us because it’s too shallow to float our boats!  Too, as the redfish and black drum group up in large schools so will the anglers as they target them.

For the most part anglers will do well to concentrate their efforts on the outer edges of shallow flats.  If there is a definable drop-off anywhere along the edge of the flat you are fishing thoroughly cover the area being patient and methodical.

Winter fish tend to rely greatly on crustaceans for their calories.  Shrimp and crabs are high on the list of readily available foods as well as clams, snails (actually mollusks).  Marine worms can also be a major food source, though not easily imitated or readily available for sale in the south.

Small baitfish like mud minnows will be aggressively targeted by redfish, seatrout and yes, black drum during the cold water season.  While small fin-fish numbers are low this time of year the savvy angler will still keep a rod rigged with a three inch soft plastic minnow imitation.  I like the Z Man Minnowz in several colors for this job! 

 

North Indian River Lagoon, December 2015

Well gang, so far our weather patterns for the fall of 2015 have not been typical.  October’s winds blew like it was November and thus far in early November we’ve experienced mostly calm mornings with a bit of wind during the afternoon and early evening.

I’ll confess to being unsure of what December will bring.  Of course, trying to forecast weather patterns as well as redfish, spotted seatrout, black drum or any other fish’s attitudes is a fool’s errand.

In past years December offered a reprieve from November’s constant wind and usually at least part of December’s weather pattern featured comfortably warm days with nearly perfect water temps. Hungry redfish and black drum tailed in fringe areas (very shallow water meeting deeper areas) with plenty of trout stalking the flats in search of mullet.

Typically we see a slow dropping of our water levels in December, though it seldom bottoms out until winter truly takes its hold.  All in all I like December’s opportunities and I’m hopeful we will have a typical December.

Prepare with rods rigged in several ways.  Be sure to keep a rod rigged with a circle hook for tossing a live shrimp to the tailing fish.  Another rod or two with soft plastics imitating small baitfish (I’m currently enjoying the Z Man MinnowZ, Diezel MinnowZ and PaddlerZ).  A rod rigged with a shrimp or crab imitation is a no-brainer as is a rod rigged with your favorite soft plastic twitch bait (I like the DART). Don’t forget to rig a top-water plug too as we still have plenty of mullet using the flats in December.  If you still have a rod unrigged tie an Aqua Dream weedless spoon to it as these are the ultimate search lures and can cover lots of water quickly while picking off the most aggressive fish.

If I don’t bump into you beforehand I bid you all a Merry Christmas and look forward to chatting again next year!

 

North Indian River Lagoon, November 2015

November is a “wild card” month for us in Central Florida.  Typically it’s an extremely windy month and we start seeing some “cold” in the cold fronts signaling Winter’s imminent arrival.

As the water transitions from warm to cool this area often encounters a few weeks of foul, dirty conditions.   While I liken this phenomenon to a norther lake “turning over” the reality is our shallows don’t go through this process, though the water’s appearance will look as though it does. 

Obviously, avoid these areas if sight-fishing is your passion.  However, if you like to soak cut bait on the bottom or free-line a live mullet this dirty water is not necessarily your enemy.  Use your senses when it comes to the dirty water locations.  If your eyes tell you the area is harboring life and your nose is not offended by a repugnant odor there’s no reason to not give it a try.

For the lure tossing crowd and yes, I’m part of this crowd; choose lures with plenty of vibration or flash.  Spoons like Aqua Dream”s and spinner-baits can reap big rewards as they offer both and they’re easy to fish.  Soft plastic lures like the Z-Man Grass Kickerz are minnow shaped with an oversized tail and you’ll “feel” the low level vibration of the tail’s wobble as you retrieve it.  You can bet the fish can home in on it this vibration even in water too dirty to see more than a foot or two.

Top-water plugs are still effective this month as long as the surface isn’t blanketed with floating grass.  While I love walk-the-dog plugs a popper or propeller lure can often out fish them in dirty water.  Of course a walking plug with rattles will offer another dimension to the equation.  Experiment with the different rattle pitches offered by the various manufacturers!

 

South Mosquito Lagoon, November 2015

I’m expecting high, dirty water through November in the south ‘goon.  Not only is this typical in November, but we have these conditions at the time of this writing (mid-October) and we’ll likely have dirty, high water for most of our Novembers in the future.  Like I said, it’s typical! 

While the water is way up pay close attention to shorelines with mangrove trees or other bushes; you’ll likely find redfish and black drum holding and feeding there.  Just as not all “flats” hold fish equally, flooded shorelines will also have barren areas and hot spots distributed throughout any given section.  Fish an area thoroughly and remember where you found activity and return there another day.

Especially on windy days I’ll retreat into the backwaters.  While I often avoid the Pole & Troll Zones of the lagoon during much of the year I’m happy to pole through the isolated areas during November.  I keep a rod rigged with an Aqua Dream Living weedless spoon, another rigged with a swim-tail bait like a Z-Man Paddlerz on a weedless jighead,  another rod with a weedless shrimp or crab and of course a rod with a small walking plug.  This has us ready for tailing fish, laid-up fish and cruising fish at a moment’s notice.  Being well prepared is always crucial and more so during transitional periods.

Not only is the weather transitioning, but the fin-fish like mullet, pigfish and pinfish are reaching maturity and migrating from the shallows.  As these critters become less abundant in the shallows the predatory fish rely more and more on shrimp, crabs, clams and even marine worms for their calories.

The natural bait anglers will still catch plenty of quality predators on cut mullet, ladyfish and other fin-fish chunks, but once the pigfish and pinfish leave the area cracked crab will become an awesome choice for both redfish and black drum.

 

North Indian River Lagoon, October 2015

October is my favorite month for fishing in Florida… period.  Why?  Simply put; October’s weather is as near perfect as we’re likely to experience in Florida.  Warm days and cooling nights are tough to complain about and I believe the fish feel the same way.

Locally, we can expect our redfish to continue their spawning activity.  A savvy and alert angler may find groups of monster breeders rafting on the water’s surface at first light when calm conditions allow.  It’s quite the thrill to see dozens of fins breaking through the surface film exposing their presence with promises of light-tackle battle!

I said light-tackle, but let’s not get too carried away and come under gunned.  Sure, we can beat a monster redfish on ultra-light gear.  The real question here is SHOULD we?  My answer is “not now”.  Let’s save this mind set for when the fish are not actively spawning and for a time when the water temperatures are optimal for the fish’s metabolism.  This means later in the fall, all winter and typically through spring.  I don’t go ultra-light on big fish until the water temps are well below eighty degrees.
For now my medium/medium heavy rods are coupled with 3000/4000 sized reels loaded with fifteen pound braid and twenty or twenty five pound leaders.  These outfits will cast spoons, jerk baits, top water plugs, chunk bait or live pinfish and mullet effectively and still allow a fair battle.  “Fair” for both the angler looking for a thrill and for the critter deserving every chance at a full recovery and clean release!

Pinching the barbs down on the treble hooks adorning many of the lures we choose helps the de-hooking process of your trophy catch.  Too, it adds a degree of safety for the angler when a hook becomes buried in one of us!

For me, I love walk the dog type of top-water plugs like the Fender Walker from Banks Lures and of course the Super Spook which most anglers know about.  When the floating grass mats interfere with the aforementioned lures I go to a Z Man Pop Shadz.  This floating soft plastic is almost totally weedless and super effective.

South Mosquito Lagoon, October 2015

Get yourselves ready for some of the finest fishing of the year, it’s OCTOBER!

The days are becoming shorter and the evenings are certainly cooling off earlier.  These conditions alone will improve the disposition of our local game fish.  To be clear, the fishing this summer was very good most of the time.  However, October typically offers better and more consistent feeding activity from our stocks of redfish, spotted seatrout and even black drum.

I fully expect the late summer algae bloom that turned the extreme south end of the lagoon into a pool of chocolate milk to have run its course and become reasonably clear.  Once this happens expect the fishing south of the Haulover Canal to boom again!

If water levels rise as is normal expect many redfish and black drum to scatter across flats previously too shallow to fish while others begin marauding along mainland and island shorelines.  In either scenario the predators are searching for food items which have been off limits to them during summer’s low water levels.  Typically the shoreline fish are searching for fiddler crabs, small blue crabs or mangrove crabs against the island banks or mud minnows which school along the same areas. 

Using a Z Man three inch Minnowz in a dark color easily imitates a mud minnow and their two inch Crusteaz is a good enough representation of a crab to do the job.  I use Mission Fishin’ weedless jig heads for both of these soft plastics.

Don’t forget the fall silver mullet run is in full swing and the predators will be devouring them.  Top-water plugs are my favorite way to imitate these critters though sub-surface hard baits often work better if you’re in deep enough water to make them effective.

Don’t leave home without a spoon or two.  While the basic gold color is a favorite the mullet and pinfish patterns from Aqua Dream are very good options and all of our game fish will readily eat them!

North Indian River Lagoon, September 2015

Lot’s to talk about right now.  It is mid-August at the time of this writing and fishing in the North Indian River Lagoon is very good.  Expect it to remain so through the remainder of the summer and throughout fall.

The early morning spotted seatrout bite has been outstanding with 50 live shrimp lasting only an hour or so.  Along with the school trout we’re catching lots-o-ladyfish to be used later as cut bait for catching redfish in the shallows.  Several other incidental species are also actively feeding on the live shrimp suspended under a popping float, so you never know what to expect as the bobber disappears!

Redfish are holding both very shallow and in slightly deeper water depending on the day.  Keep in mind the skinny water reds tend to be extremely spooky.  Keep your casts to the outer edges of the schools when they’re tailing or well in front of the schools when they’re traveling.  We’ve been achieving good results when “soaking” cut bait in sand patches with a two foot or so water depth.  Some of these redfish are over 40 inches!

Early mornings when we decide to leave the school trout to themselves we’re using Z Man top-water lures in the pearl white color.  I’m rigging the Shad Popz with a standard off-set shanked bass worm hook and no weight.  These soft plastic top-waters are extremely weedless and effective.  You can even fish them through the Widgeon Grass mats floating on the surface.  Slot reds and quality spotted seatrout are our primary targets and the juvenile tarpon occasionally smack at them too.

Lastly, it’s time for the breeder redfish to do their thing.  Please “tackle-up” a bit when targeting these creatures.  Make sure to fully revive them after the catch and quick photo. 

South Mosquito Lagoon, September 2015

September is full on spawning season for our local redfish population.  While more spawning activity occurs in the Mosquito Lagoon than is commonly accepted it’s the Indian River that gets the attention of most anglers.

For those who do not enjoy fishing with the “armada” to the west try concentrating your efforts in the Tiger Basin region, especially drop-off areas of the major sand bars. 

Another overlooked hot spot for the big fish during the spawn is the Haulover Canal.  Fishing here is less a game of hide and seek and more a game of patience.  As the breeders roam back and forth through the canal it’s a logical place to wait in ambush.  Fishing here is simply a matter of keeping a few baits anchored on the bottom and waiting for a rod to bend.

While I personally don’t find this approach as exciting as hunting and stalking redfish I still recognize this location and method for the success it offers and indeed the “canal” has saved many charter trips over the years.

I prefer a live mullet or pinfish lip-hooked on a 5/0 circle using just enough weight to keep the bait on the bottom.  Current flow dictates the amount of weight with one ounce being right for all but the fastest moving water.  If possible I also like to free-line a live bait on one rod to entice fish moving higher in the water column.  Often a big jack will find it and sometime a monster red will, but if you’re lucky a hundred pound tarpon will explode on your bait adding an adrenaline rush the likes many have never experienced.

Tackle up for this type of fishing.  I find twenty pound line to be the minimum strength and prefer thirty pound coupled to forty pound leader.  Lighter tackle may allow the battle to last much too long a duration for the healthy release of any big fish during summer’s relentless heat. 

In my opinion it’s better to fight them hard and fast, bringing them to boat while they’re still feisty.  This allows time for a quick photo and ensures the fish is strong enough for an easy revival and ultimately a successful release!

North Indian River Lagoon, August 2015

August is obviously a hot month with daytime air temperatures constantly in the 90 degree range and water temps virtually the same.  This does not mean it’s TOO hot to fish!

Personally, when targeting shallow water fish I prefer to start very early in the day and try to leave the dock before it’s actually light.  A bit of morning glow allows me to see well enough to safely navigate to my first location.  Often the splash of our lures or baits from our first casts are hidden from view simply because it is still a bit dark and shadowed near the east shorelines.

Since I tend to start early I also typically stop early too.  For me, three or four hours are enough when it’s this warm.  I will obviously fish longer at a client’s request, though I do not advise it if slot redfish is the targeted species.

Trout on the other hand, especially schooling trout, don’t seem to mind the warmth as much.  Years back I made my summer paychecks by catching and selling spotted seatrout.  We usually fished in two to four feet of water depth with popping floats, suspending live pigfish which we trapped ourselves. 

For the group of anglers who prefer lures to live bait the popping float will still work with a plastic shrimp, grub, Twister Tail or shad body lure “nearly” as well!  The key to making the popping float work to its maximum potential is suspending the lure or bait at precisely the right depth. 

August also kicks off the redfish spawn for our inshore fish.  These adult redfish will average well over forty inches and become ravenous after a spawn.  While I love throwing a Banks Lures Fender Walker at them for the intense visual stimulation these critters will also eat spoons (Aqua Dream), soft plastics (Exude RT Slugs) and crank or twitch baits (Sebile), etc.

Please “tackle up” when targeting these breeders to shorten the battle.  Get your photo quickly and make sure to support the fish’s midsection as you hold them horizontally.  Finally take all the time necessary to revive the fish before letting it go.  Often a minute or two does the job, though sometimes it takes longer, much longer.  Remember, if it’s worth the time to target and battle these awesome fighters it worth the time to ensure their safe release!

South Mosquito Lagoon, August 2015

Most of the waters south of Haulover Canal continue to be murky, but this area is still holding fish.  I say, take advantage of the fish’s lack of visibility by throwing lures which “shake, rattle and roll”…

Lures with lots of flash like an Aqua Dream Living spoon in the classic gold color also offer plenty of vibration for hungry redfish, trout, tarpon (yes, I said tarpon) to home in on. 

Even though the visibility is low right now so is the water level and the fish feeding in the super skinny are still timid.  Focus on the outer edges of the flats in a foot or more of water or along the many sandbar edges offering a sharp drop-off!

Since we seem to be experiencing an explosion of puffer fish this year I’ve been using a lot of Z-Man plastics like the Curly Tailz and Minnowz.  Even though the puffers eventually render them useless it takes quite a few direct hits to affect the lures performance, whereas one or two bites annihilate traditional soft plastic lures.

The top water bite is on!  If it’s too grassy to use a traditional walker or chugger try a Z-Man Pop Shadz.  Rig these with a weedless bass style hook and this soft plastic popper will maneuver over or through the heaviest grass mats.  Simply pretend you’re bass fishing the lilies and hold on!

In mid-July as I write this the area between Haulover Canal and Georges bar is a bit cleaner and the concentration of fish much greater than the southernmost region of the ‘goon.  These fish also are more aggressive and feeding more readily.  Only time will tell what August’s pattern will be, but be willing to travel a bit if the need arises.

North Indian River Lagoon, July 2015

Summer is in full swing and July will likely offer plenty of heat and afternoon thunderstorms.  A few years ago I started offering charter durations starting at just three hours (rather than the typical four) as a means to “beat the heat” of summer’s too warm embrace.  Once water temperatures rise to the realm of bathwater our fishery often becomes most active very early in the day and again very late as the sun closes in on the western horizon.

Along with summer’s heat and constant threat of thunderstorms we can expect lower than average water levels.  Keep your eyes open and you’ll see redfish and even a few black drum tailing in the shallows as they work diligently to remove a tasty morsel from the lagoon’s bottom. Yes, the Indian River is chock full of mullet, pinfish, minnows of all varieties and these foodstuffs are obviously important, but do not overlook a drum’s love for critters who wear a shell on their outsides.

Back to the fin-fish; catch your own or buy them from your local bait store.  Live bait is versatile, reaps great results and is easy to employ.  I like rigging natural bait whether live or dead on circle hooks sized appropriately for the bait being used.  Add only enough weight to hold bottom if bottom is where the fish are feeding or free-line your offering if your quarry if feeding on or near the surface.

Throughout the summer and well beyond we will be dealing with both rooted and floating grass.  Also, we’ll be dealing with drift algae and the green, stringy hair like algae which grows up from the bottom in beds.  All of these plants will find themselves entangled upon our leader knots, hooks and our lures themselves.  Selecting a lure which can be effectively retrieved through or above this maze of entanglement is a most important decision for those of us who like to throw lures.

We’ll talk more about lure selection in the South Mosquito Lagoon section… (Just Below) see you there!

South Mosquito Lagoon, July 2015

As of the time I write this forecast (mid-June) it’s fair to say the water clarity is much better in the north Indian River than the south Mosquito Lagoon.  However, I feel it’s also fair to say the bite is better in the Mosquito.  While this may seem counter-intuitive it is what it is and if the fish are chewing better in the dirty water I’ll choose the better bite!

The good news is with the lower than average water levels the savvy angler will take advantage of the tails waving at us as the redfish, black drum and yes, catfish show us their exact location.  I mention the catfish as a reminder to us; all that glitters is not gold…

When tailing activity is slow or non-existent concentrate your efforts on the outer edges of the shallow flats.  These slightly deeper areas become high use areas after the shallows become too skinny to support the gamefish.  Edges alive with mullet become especially attractive to the predators and should be attractive to the anglers as well.

When the fish are less than aggressive it’s tough to beat a live finger mullet, pinfish or pigfish for catching a few reds or spotted seatrout.  Do not rule out the attractiveness of dead and cut bait using this same selection.  Placing your offering in a sand-patch will up your odds and remember your patience will often be rewarded.

Lure selection gets a little tougher this time of year because of all the debris floating on the surface or rotting on the bottom.  Grass and algae seemingly reach out and attack anything with treble hooks and twitch-baits become tangled too if allowed to reach bottom.  I tend to throw soft plastic shad tailed and curly tailed swim baits rigged with a weedless Mission Fishin’ jig head.  Of course, a weedless shrimp imitation is a great choice especially when fish are tailing or holding in sand patches.  I really like the Pimpin’ Shrimp from Banks Lures as long as the puffer fish aren’t too abundant.

For a great top-water lure that is very weedless try the Z Man Shad Popz on a 5/0 worm hook.  This lure can be fished across the thickest grass mats just like a bass anglers floating frog!

North Indian River Lagoon, June 2015

There is some good news as well as a bit of bad news for this June if fishing the north end of the Indian River is in your plans. 

The bad news is we are experiencing some heavy, though localized algae blooms.  When you find them they are quite noticeable and, well, smelly!  Simply avoid them, it’s easy and often you find baitfish skirting around the milky water.  Guess what’s taking advantage of them?

The good news is we’re seeing new grass growth in many areas.  It will be a while before our bottom cover restores itself and if the blooms don’t get too out of control this summer I believe Mother Nature will begin licking her wounds and healing.  Our brightest beacon of light signaling an improvement is the resurrection of our widgeon grass.  It’s growing in great abundance in areas we used to cuss at it for being so thick and new areas where I’ve not seen it before!

In my not too distant past I always longed for June’s arrival.  June triggered our commercial spotted seatrout season.  We fished with hook and line gear and trapped our own pigfish as bait.  Though I no longer sell fish to make my living there’ll always be a soft spot in my heart for this fishery and the simple techniques we employed.  Maybe this summer I’ll dig out my old traps, gather some pigfish and revive some old memories!

If catching a bunch of trout is your idea of fun then all you’ll need is a basic fishing rod, an adjustable float, leader, hook and some lively pigfish.  While the tackle and technique is simple the reality is most people won’t do well with this method of fishing.  It’s the smallest of details here that literally make your day productive or a complete bust.   The most important detail, except for location is the proper adjustment of the pigfish below the float.  Catch me at the ramp some day and I’ll be happy to explain in detail!

 

South Mosquito Lagoon, June 2015

June in the Lagoon; I love the sound of this.  Though it’s middle of the year we’ve had to deal with a few weak cold fronts in May and lots-o-wind!  At least it’s been a comfortable temperature and the fish have not seemed to mind the blowing all that much.

If it wasn’t for the ever-present wolf packs of pufferfish we’d be having a field day tossing Exude Darts and RT Slugs to the reds and trout feeding in the shallows.  As it stands, traditional soft plastic lures are quickly reduced to miniscule nubs of synthetic matter in very short order making blind-casting quite frustrating!

In an attempt to increase the number of casts we can expect before the puffers tear the lure apart I’ve been experimenting with the Z-Man soft plastics.  While they certainly hold up much better than traditional plastics they are not immune to the sharp beaks of these problematic critters.  Still, this product certainly has increased our catches on days when clients prefer casting man made lures.

A great choice lately has been small and medium sized top-water plugs in walking, popping and tail propeller versions.  Also, Aqua Dream weedless spoons will nab more than a few reds, trout and even a snook or juvenile tarpon once in a while and they’re puffer proof!

Natural bait anglers are in luck as the area is filled to the gills with pinfish, silver mullet of every size, fry fish (the young of many different species), pigfish and blue crabs!  Though we may be nearing the end of our shrimp season we’re still seeing a few hopping out of the water as they’re being chased early in the mornings and I expect to still see a few throughout June.

 

North Indian River Lagoon, April 2015

I’m asked on a regular basis what time of year offers our best fishing for redfish and other shallow water gamefish.  I always answer April, May and June.  Sure, we have redfish here all year and we obviously catch them all year.  So what makes this time frame special, you ask?

For starters the weather is typically beautiful, but for a little rain here and there.  The winds may decide to blow some and it usually only lasts a day or so when it does.  Most importantly, food for the gamefish is becoming extremely abundant and at a time when they need it the most!

For those of us preferring to fool our quarry with lures or flies our options are broad.  The only real limitations to lures is will our choice perform well in the water depth we are fishing and will our choice maneuver well through the grass.

Anglers able to imitate small crabs, shrimp, mullet, pinfish, mud-minnows, pilchards or other generic minnows should have little difficulty catching fish in the shallows.  I’ll keep a rod rigged with an Exude Dart, another rigged with a 3 inch mullet imitation like a Slayer SST, a third rod rigged with a Banks Lures Flats Creeper and a final rod rigged with an Aqua Dream weedless spoon.  These few lures in a couple of colors each allow me to imitate almost any “fin-fish” in our waters and in the case of the Dart it can do double duty as a shrimp imitation!

Keep in mind the shallows are not the only place to find action during our spring season.  Move to the outer edges of the shallow flats to seek out the schooling spotted seatrout.  If wind direction and velocity allow drift from shallow to deep or deep to shallow, paying attention to the two foot to four foot water depths.

Rigging a live shrimp under a rattle float is a great way to catch lots-o-trout.  In lieu of “real” bait try a plastic shrimp or a three inch grub rigged on a light jighead under the same float.  Other soft plastic lures like minnow/mullet imitating swim baits or a Mister Twister Sassy Shad work equally well and certainly worth a try when the shallow water action is slow!

 

South Mosquito Lagoon, April 2015

April through June is my favorite time of year in Central Florida.  Typically the weather is at its best and the fishing is consistently good.  Gone are the cold fronts and blustery winds howling from the north and the summer’s heat has not yet gripped us in a stranglehold.

Water temperatures are not only near perfect for the baitfish and gamefish in April, it’s also warm enough to allow an algae bloom.  While I cannot say for sure if we will have another “brown algae” bloom this year I can tell you we are seeing a mild bloom in mid-March.  Much of the South Lagoon is still crystal clear, though some areas are cloudy.  To date, the fish don’t seem to care!

Only time will tell if we’re in for another nasty bloom as April moves along.  Keep in mind we still caught fish in the blooms of years behind us.

Let the mullet tell you where to fish if the water is dirty.  We employ this technique whenever the water is filthy with mud, algae or debris.  You’ll often notice the mullet skirting the edges of the foul water meeting the clear or at least relatively clean water.  Fishing along these transition lines can reap huge rewards for the astute angler.

Speaking of mullet; I hope you’ve noticed their early arrival this March.  Before April’s end they should be thick on the flats.  Even though we still have a local population of shrimp throughout the region redfish and gator trout are aggressively feeding upon fingerling mullet moving across the shallows.

Mullet are not the only “fin-fish” showing up early this spring.  Pinfish are already a nuisance on the flats and will quickly pick a live shrimp apart when tossed into a sand spot.  Live shrimp are nearly useless now except when sight-cast to an aggressive predator able to pounce on it before the pseudo-piranha do!

 

North Indian River Lagoon, March 2015

Get ready for the big blow, gang.  March is notorious for her wind.  With luck, March won’t blow all month long.  Of course, we’ll still have winter cold fronts coming through on a regular or semi-regular schedule.

March is probably my least favorite month to fish the shallow flats of East Central Florida.  Why, you ask?  Because we’ll be transitioning from winter to spring and this transition can be confusing to the fish and fisherman alike.  This confusion comes from many factors and there’s nowhere near enough time to discuss them here in the forecast section.

As our days grow longer take advantage of the extra sunlight’s ability to warm the shallows and offer better visibility.  After an especially chilly cold front passes by the late afternoon bite can be better than the morning’s.  Of course, you’ll likely need to hide from the breeze by mid-afternoon.

I find the wind being less of an issue (catching wise) on afternoon trips than on morning trips providing the velocity on the wind does not prevent me from controlling the vessel.  In fact, breezy afternoons can offer an excellent redfish and seatrout bite for both bait dunkers and artificial lure throwers.

Until the pinfish and other small bait-stealers become an issue a live shrimp is an excellent choice of bait.  Too, an artificial shrimp in its many forms will do a fine job.  I’m torn between using the Exude Fan Tail Shrimp and a Banks Lures Pimpin’ Shrimp when tailing redfish or black drum present themselves.

These tailing fish, for me is March’s saving grace.  While we’ve seen tailing activity in February I expect to see more tails waving at me through March and beyond.  Arming ourselves with small crab imitations, soft plastic shrimp and live shrimp as backup, I feel confident we’ll catch our fair share!

South Mosquito Lagoon, March 2015

March: the epitome of poor weather conditions!  I’m not a fan of fishing during March, but we will fish and we will catch fish.  Unless we’re blessed with an “unusual” weather pattern this month we should be prepared to fish in wind, rain, hot and cold!  While this might sound like a normal Florida winter, March tends to offer more abrupt and extreme weather fluctuations.

I do like the fact that although March’s weather is unpredictable its general trend is a slow warm-up.  Longer days and slightly warmer nights help to keep the water temperature into a favorable range throughout more of the day.  This factor alone should increase feeding activity and feeding durations.  For me this translates into waving tails and exciting opportunities for the anglers possessing good casting skills!

Whether you’re seeing redfish, black drum, seatrout or other tails poking through the water’s surface it’s a tell-tale sign of predators eating shrimp, crabs, clams, snails or marine worms.  Using some of these in their natural form is simple, but a few of these “baits” are hard to buy or catch and even tougher to imitate.

For most of us, concentrating on imitating shrimp and crabs is an obvious choice.  Remember though, it is hard to convince a redfish to eat a shrimp if it is gorging on baby snails or marine worms and these critters are tough to imitate!

Although crustaceans are still the primary forage for a while yet you can bet the pinfish fry are growing fast.  Often by mid-March we start seeing pinfish, mullet and other small fin-fish grown large enough to be of interest to redfish, seatrout and the ladyfish that will also begin to show.  As these critters become more and more abundant the use of live and cut baits will become quite effective. 

So as we work our way through March’s fickleness take comfort in the fact April is coming and that, as they say, is another story!

North Indian River Lagoon, January 2015

Happy New Year, Gang!  I hope you’ll spend another year with us at Coastal Angler Magazine.  We would not be here if not for you in the fishing community and your support.

For me January truly is WINTER and so of course is February.  Winter in Florida is obviously different than winter “up north”; we don’t get nearly as cold and we don’t need to shovel snow.  However, we do get cold enough to change our fishery and the patterns we often consider “normal”.

By now most all of our finfish in the form of mullet, pinfish, pigfish, etc. are gone from the shallows.  Are there still a few wandering around?  Sure there are and also mud minnows, which typically keep near the banks.  All of these critters are important food sources to the local flats predators, but shrimp are now the most important food item on the flats.

Keeping a dozen or two with you as backup will certainly enhance your catch on those tough days when the fish will not aggressively attack an artificial shrimp.  With luck and planning those tough days can be avoided or at least kept to a minimum.

The most consistent winter pattern is fishing the warm-up after a major cold front.  Usually the best fishing is the first or second day we experience a rise in temperature (both air and water) and if the wind relaxes too the bite can become fantastic!

In a perfect world the cold fronts will come steadily and about a week apart.  When the fronts pattern this way we get two or three days of great fishing between the cold.   In the real world these fronts may come more rapidly and the warming effects do not always materialize.  This is when fishing here gets tough and stealth, perseverance and technique become especially important!

South Mosquito Lagoon, January 2015

Happy New Year, All!

Its real winter by now and unless we’re having odd weather patterns you can bet the cold fronts are lining up.  The biggest key to fishing the cold season is timing your fishing trips between the cold fronts.

Head to the water once the temperatures begin climbing and try to fish every day until the next front slams us and the temperatures back down again.  This simple concept isn’t perfect, but if practiced enough it will result in successful catches.

Think small if you’re using artificial lures, especially if your lure imitates a fish and not a shrimp or crab.  I’d rather imitate a mud minnow than a mullet at this time when targeting slot sized redfish on the flats.  Of course a shrimp imitation will get the job done for reds, trout and black drum, so I keep a rod rigged with an Exude Fan Tail Shrimp or Banks Lures Pimpin’ Shrimp at all times!

Don’t be shy about tossing hardware.  An Aqua dream weedless spoon and a small top water plug can and will catch plenty during winter’s reign.  I like the Fender Walker in 3.5 inch for my go-to walking plug and we’ll throw it until well into the next spring.

If natural bait is your thing your fishing life is about to get easy.  Keep your rig simple.  A 1/0, 2/0 or 3/0 circle hook with two feet of light fluorocarbon leader attacked to your mainline is all you’ll need to offer a live shrimp, dead shrimp, crab or chunk of fish to any of the usual suspects on the shallow.  If you prefer to “set” the hook when your quarry eats you might consider using a Kahle style hook in place of the circle.  Also, a split shot can be of benefit if it’s windy or the water deeper than two foot. 

North Indian River Lagoon, November 2014

November is a usually a transitional month for us.  I consider November to be transitional because weather patterns begin changing in an abrupt manner.  These changes eventually morph into winter’s constant barrage of cold fronts leaving the entirely too short and pleasant fall season in the dust.  However, since our past several months have been less than typical I’m uncertain as to how November’s fishing patterns will unfold!

I’ll go out on a limb here and predict WIND.  Wind is a safe prediction in November.  So is dirty water in the North Indian River.  Don’t let it interrupt your fishing as there should still be enough clean or lightly stained water to “sight-fish”.

Be versatile; of course, this is pretty good advice in general.  Keeping in mind our area is still holding finfish in every form, though not as many as in summer.  Mullet, pinfish, mud minnows and a few pigfish are likely to be available on the flats.  We’re also coming into the shrimp season and let us not forget the crabs both crawling and swimming!

Any and all of these in their live or dead forms offer the savvy angler either a fantastic back up plan if artificial lures provide less than adequate results or an awesome first choice perfect for stacking the odds in your favor!

No need in getting too fancy with your selection of artificial lures.  My Exude RT-Slugs and Darts will get a workout as will my Banks Lures Fender Walkers!  I fully expect to keep at least one rod rigged with a weedless spoon as well and you already know it will be from Aqua Dream.

As always I’ll keep a rod rigged with a circle hook ready to accept a live shrimp or maybe a chunk of mullet or ladyfish.  Yes, after several months of not buying live shrimp it is time for me to keep a dozen or two in the bait well.  After all, November is a time to be versatile.

South Mosquito Lagoon, November 2014

One of the best features of the Mosquito Lagoon is its windbreaks allowing us shelter from north and south winds.  The northern region of the Mosquito offers a virtual maze of islands to hide in.  The southern non-tidal zone has fewer islands, though more than enough to give us at least some relief from November’s typically windy conditions!

November is also typically a high water cycle which allows us easy access to back country areas often too shallow to enter.  For me, there is seldom a better time to visit these places.  Keep in mind many, many acres of these back water areas are in the Pole and Troll zones. 

Think “tailers” when in the back waters.  Of course, you’ll not see tailing fish exclusively, though you should witness more tails waving to you than in the open water regions.  I’m partial to crab and shrimp imitations when targeting tailing redfish or black drum.  Exude’s Fan Tail Shrimp is a great lure for this pattern.  Rigged weedless and placing a “rattle” within its specially designed pocket an angler is perfectly armed!

Obviously, a live shrimp pinned to a circle or kahle style hook is a great choice for tailing fish.  Add a light split shot if necessary to enable the cast.   Maybe not so obviously, dead shrimp and cut mullet, etc. are good choices for tailing fish too.  Resist the desire to toss a chunk of meat too near any tailing critter.  Instead, cast well past your target and gently “hop” it into the fish’s kill zone.

Keep several rods rigged with a variety of lures capable of tempting the fish which are not tailing.  Twitch baits like Exude’s RT Slug and the Dart top my list; especially the Dart because I can easily manipulate it to mimic a shrimp.  Keep a spoon like the weedless Aqua Dream on another rod and finally a rod rigged with a top-water plug and you’re well set to cover the entire water column.  Whether the critters are tailing, cruising or laid-up you have a rig ready to go!

North Indian River Lagoon, October 2014

I can’t scream it loud enough: Yea, it’s October!  October’s cooler nights and moderately warm days means true comfort for the fish and fishers alike.  The fall seasons shorter days, cooler temperatures and favorable weather patterns are a combination tough to beat in this fishery.

Additionally, this area is still full to the gills with baitfish.  Mullet, pins, pigs, fry fish, etc. are abundant and will remain so for another month or two.  For the anglers fishing here it simply means there are basically no wrong methods, lures or baits to choose from as long as they’re appropriate to this venue.

Our breeder redfish will still be doing their thing through the month and possibly into November.  In fact, as of early September I have witnessed no real spawn, but expect this to change on September’s full moon.  I hope this proves out so we can talk about it in a later issue.

October is my favorite month to target snook throughout the Indian River Lagoon.  October’s weather just agrees with all of our inshore species of game-fish and their metabolisms.  By October the snook’s summer spawn is well behind us and most of these critters living in the lagoon system have returned to their favorite haunts.

Seatrout action should remain outstanding in October.  A bonus to the anglers who target this voracious game-fish is these fish will begin to gain weight again after losing weight most of the summer.  I’m convinced the combination of warm water temperatures and spawning activity during the summer season causes the females of this species to lose weight and not just because of releasing their egg cargo. 

Targeting the larger examples of these three species throughout the fall season requires a change or two for me and my clients.  I’ll break out the bigger gear with rod & reels combos using 15 or 20 pound braid and throw big baits or lures!

My favorite plugs will be 5 and 7 inch Fender Walkers by Banks Lures as these imitate the silver mullet all of these fish are feeding upon.  BTW, crimping the barbs down on the treble hooks will make a clean release much more likely!  Soft plastic lures like Exude’s RT Slug will adorn a rod or two on my boat with the Smokin’ Shad color being my favorite silver mullet imitation.  Banks Lures 5 inch Flats Creeper and 7 inch Mangrove Mercenary will round out my soft lure choices when specifically targeting breeder reds, gator trout and slot snook.  You can be sure I’ll be tossing a weedless spoon as needed and it will be from Aqua Dream.

South Mosquito Lagoon, October 2014

I love fishing in October!  Every species of fish commonly caught on hook and line is active this month.  All of the lagoon’s common bait fishes are abundant too.  For the Mosquito Lagoon angler it seldom gets any better.

We can target breeding redfish which grow to mammoth proportions or slot redfish suitable for dinner.  You can seek to catch a trophy seatrout locally known as “gator trout” in one area and a stone’s throw away target schoolie trout which though much smaller present themselves in big numbers.  We can even target snook in a few areas of the ‘goon.  Black drum are still found in many areas and juvenile tarpon are actually abundant if you know where to look.

October offers so much variety it could only be better if it were October-like all year!

Don’t get hung up on any one technique.  There is really no wrong method for catching right now unless using a technique not conducive to our area.  By that I mean trolling a deep diving plug in a foot of water.  While you’re sure to catch a boat load of grass you’ll likely not catch a redfish or trout.

Be versatile in your tackle; rig several rods with different soft plastics imitating fingerling mullet, live shrimp and small baitfish.  Cover the water column from top to bottom.  Some soft plastic lures can do this alone in water depths under 3 feet.  For my money a top water plug from 3 to 5 inches like a Fender Walker, Skitterwalk, Ghostwalker or Zara Spook and a 5 inch soft plastic slug/shad bait like the Exude RT Slug is a tough two rod combination to beat!

Don’t forget to “feed ‘em” if that’s what it takes.  A lot of flats fish are boated with no more than a 3/0 circle hook and a chunk of mullet or live shrimp!  Some days the simplest ways work the best.