Well now that we are into the New Year of 2012 here in east central Florida and great weather is amongst us the flats fishing of the Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River has taken of tremendously here in the New Smyrna Beach, Titusville and Oak Hill areas of central Florida. Sight fishing the backcountry flats of the national park and refuge has begun to improve quite a bit, with water clarity getting into the optimal range it should be for this time of year and just outstanding days to fish in. Clear as spring water in most places and easy to spot fish with bright blue skies above you makes the fishing here on the Mosquito Lagoon and north Indian River a premier destination for world class sight fishing. Air and water temperatures are at a prime as well for making east central Florida fishing comfortable, exciting and fun. This is inshore saltwater flats fishing at its very best, what dreams are made of. There is no better place to fish here in the states on a year round basis than here in Florida. Just so many options are here and opportunities for fish of all types of species to target.
As the past several weeks have gone by the water visibility more than anything has cleared up some from the algae bloom that occurred over the summer and fall of 2011. It has taken a few months of cooler weather along with a couple of extremely cold nights and chilly days but we are getting to the famous clarity this area is known for making it a sight fishing paradise.
The flats and sight fishing is great as the sun breaks the horizon in the morning and continues its ascent as the day goes by. Even at mid-day the fishing is still great and can be at its prime for the day. Water temperatures in the morning time are in the mid 60° mark and rising up to the high 70° mark at the height of the day. This is ideal for redfish and drum.
Redfish, trout and several black drum are being caught in fairly decent numbers on several different baits and lures as well as using light tackle sight fishing methods or fly fishing tactics. The fish are ranging from 2 to 15 pounds on average, with a few bigger and smaller ones mixed in. Searching the flats with baitfish, birds and activity of life on them is one of several different keys into getting on some nice game fish.
As the nights are cooler to cold this time of year a grass flat that is near ledges, holes and drop offs are a good place to start looking for fish at dawn. The fish at night time will tend to drop into the deeper waters for warmth, food and protection. As will the baitfish that they feed upon. As the sun begins to rise, the areas that the rays touch first will warm up the quickest and most likely will hold baitfish along with the predators that follow. This also applies to the shallow water, as for it will warm up quicker than deep water. Sand holes among the grass will tend to be great ambush points for all types of predators and game fish, as well as the ledges leading back to the drop off areas. In a sense they become a type of underwater field that is scanned by predators alike. Of course as with any day you fish shallow waters here on the flats the key elements to success are stealth, patience and distance. Take your time and do not rush things. Approach fish at a distance to not only give you ample time to get into position but also to give you a few chances to make that perfect cast. Use your push pole as much as you can and use your trolling motor as a tool to make up distances. Think like a hunter; be sure to give every angler a very wide gap between you and them. Space between and low noise is a key too. What is a wide gap? I say 900 plus feet if not more, give or take a few feet. You may see two or even three boats on top of each other and think to get in there with them. However consider that they may know each other and be working together. If you get to an area that already has a boat there it is simple, move to another location. There is plenty of water to fish and plenty of fish to be caught. Early starts are a very good key to a successful day of fishing the Mosquito Lagoon.
The type of baits or lures being used have been anywhere from a live shrimp placed on a small 3/0 circle hook with a small bullet weight for the black drum or redfish to the D.O.A. shrimp, D.O.A. CALS and D.O.A. Crabs. I like to throw a few of these with a weed less configuration. Throwing towards and past a feeding fish (say 8 to 12 feet past) then bring that lure/bait across their feeding path will entice a hit or two. Just be eloquent or graceful about this as not to spook them. As far as the fly fishing end of things we were able to land many redfish and black drum on imitation mullet patterns, crab patterns along with a shrimp pattern or two. Approach fish with the sun at your back at an angle and watch boat and your feet movement. Shadows from casts or yourself can alert fish of your presence. Soft casts, good target acquisition and perfect presentations need to be applied and used for all of the above. The best way to accomplish this is just to practice it. Trial and error as it is with any thing in life. Please remember to handle all of your fish with great care and a tender touch for a high survival rate upon their release.
Looks like the bottom line for the next few weeks is if the weather holds out and continues to be above average with warmer days the flats fishing here should just continue to improve. The water clarity should hopefully continue to clear up as well, so this will just make sight fishing the Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River even better as time goes by. This is what it is all about.
Again Happy New Year and I hope to see you out on the water.
Captain Drew Cavanaugh
Florida Inshore Fishing Charters
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