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Indian River Lagoon Coast Fishing Forecast, December 2005

Mosquito Coast Fishing Charters

We are very fortunate to live in Central Florida and to fish on the waters along Indian River Lagoon Coast, for our angling adventures carry on year round. December on the lagoon coast marks a transitional period influenced greatly by changing water temperatures resulting from shorter days and passing cold fronts. The strength and duration of passing fronts are unpredictable, but both of these factors determine changes in water temperature, the number of fishable day between fronts, and fishing tactics.

The comfort zones of many species of fish shift as the lagoon and coastal waters cool, and understanding how these changes influence specific species will help you locate and catch fish. A good reference for the temperature range for saltwater fish species is located on the Central Florida East Coast Fishing website and can be reviewed at http://home.cfl.rr.com/floridafishing/temp.htm.

Many references suggest that fish are a cold-blooded animals, which is true to some degree, but realistically their body temperature is the same as the water surrounding them. As the water temperature nears the lower ranges of their comfort zone they become sluggish and require a lesser degree of energy to maintain their bodily functions; as a result they feed less. When this happens, most pelagic species will migrate to warmer waters, others species will seek warmer depths, and some species will succumb if extreme thermal changes occur quickly. Therefore, it is important to consider the temporal conditions when developing your fishing plan of attack.

Inlet Fishing

In and around the inlets of Ponce De Leon and Sebastian, I prefer to fish the incoming tide because the water in the ocean is typically a degree or two warmer than that of the Lagoon. Remember, as the water temperature increases, the fish will become more active and need more food. Also, our prevailing seas in the winter are from the northeast, so on the rising tide the seas are following to the current, and they are less threatening and safer.

In December all of the inlets hold resident schools of large breeder redfish, and if the conditions are right, bright warm sunny afternoons and a slack to incoming tide, they will form up on the surface outside the inlets and actively feed on bait schools or anything else they can catch. When targeting these breeders, watch for heavy bird activity, and remember these are large brood redfish, so use medium heavy tackle to lessen the duration of the battle, circle hooks to reduce hook trauma, and practice CPR (catch-photo-release).

Additionally, December is a prime month for snook fishing in the Sebastian Inlet as long as the water temperatures stay warm. The best snook action cranks up after dark around the slack periods of the tide, with the warmer incoming tide being the best. Also on the first and third quarters of the moon, the tidal flow is less, providing a larger window of slack currents to fish. A lot of anglers fish from the shoreline, jetties, and catwalks with bucktail jigs and large swimming hard baits like Wind Cheaters and Bombers. Others favor fishing from boats and drifting live pigfish or pinfish through the bridge channel. These styles of angling can be quite rewarding if your timing is right, but they can also be very challenging due to the large numbers of anglers competing for the same action. Also, as a reminder, snook season ends on December 15th, so if you enjoy those yummy linesider filets, your time is limited.

Another notable species passing through the inlet on their way to deeper warmer water are the flounder. Good reports of flounder have surfaced from all of the inlets, but the current bite has slowed down a bit. As the water is cooled by passing fronts, waves of southern and gulf flounder will continue to migrate through the pass into deeper coastal waters. Currently the surf temperatures are in the lower 70’s, with 68 degrees being the key indicator for the migration. So, flounder pounders get ready, because the bulk of the flounder run has yet to come.

Along the Beaches

As the waters cool, look for the schools of inshore pompano to begin to move off of the shallow flats through the passes into the deeper warmer troughs along the beach. Good numbers of pompano have begun to show up, and the bite will improve as winter progresses. Besides clean water, pompano prefer deep water with easy access to sand fleas (mole crabs) small crabs and other crustaceans. Also, some locations traditionally hold greater numbers of fish due to deeper troughs, and some of these hotspots are: beaches north and south of the Sebastian Inlet, Indialantic and Melbourne Beach, Playalinda Beach, the Canaveral National Seashore south of New Smyrna Beach, and beaches north of Ponce Inlet. Pompano seem to feed best on the warmer incoming tide, but they often bite well at first light and dusk. To locate prime pompano hotspots, simply look for the hoards of local surf fisherman, and squeeze in.

Other significant species along the beach in December are bluefish and Spanish mackerel. These two species will be aggressively feeding on schools of glass minnows, so look for diving birds and slicks on the water, and through small jigs and spoons with a fast retrieval to avoid cutoffs.

Last but not least, let’s not forget the tasty whiting. Whiting (southern kingfish) love cold water, and a freshly peeled shrimp or piece of squid, fished on a double dropper bottom rig (pompano rig) and both will do the trick. Whiting seem to prefer a heavy rolling surf, so they are a great species to target during rough days, if you are tough enough.

Near-shore

If the water stays warm and the seas permit it, look for kingfish, tarpon, and sharks to be cruising in the shallow water along the beaches working the remaining bait schools heading south. Also, solid concentrations of kings will be holding in 60 to 100 feet of water on the near-shore reefs and wrecks like 8A reef, north Pelican Flats. The kingfish bite should remain steady as long as the water temperatures stay above 74 degrees. To target kingfish, try slow trolling live bait if you can find them, or troll dead Spanish sardines or cigar minnows (spinning minnows) dressed with skirts. When the near-shore waters approach the 70-degree mark, look for tripletail and cobia to begin showing up on the Port Canaveral buoy line and the near-shore waters off of the beaches and the bight of the Cape. These fish normally hold on floating structure and weeds, but on bright sunny warm days you will find them free swimming on the surface searching for an easy meal.

Offshore

December is one of the best months to target grouper, snapper, and amberjacks. Again, if the seas allow it, target live bottom in the 21 to 27 fathom range with either live bait, dead bait, or deep jigging. Additionally, wahoo, dolphin and an occasional sailfish are still quality targets in areas of color change, rips, and weed lines.

Inshore Flats

Both redfish and sea trout will remain in the skinny water as long as the water temperatures stay in the 70-degree range. Fish in protected areas on windy days, sunny spots where the water is warmer, and look for fish to be holding in sand pockets (potholes) until the sun gets overhead. In the fall the water levels begin to drop and clear up making winter one of the best times to sight fish, but when venturing into the skinny water, you better respect the limits of your boat. These extremely skinny waters hold fish, but it is best to hire a guide who specializes in backwater fishing, and save the wear and tear on your boat and the grass flats. If you need a skinny water backcountry guide, I can recommend several, just give me a call. Now, if the water cools off, look for the fish to find the warmest water possible. In this case, sea trout will move to deeper areas with soft muddy bottom, which hold heat, like dredge canals and hard structures, but I’m hoping I can save this information until next months forecast. Also, if it does get cold, it’s not necessary to get an early start, so stay in bed, let the sun warm the water, and fish in the afternoon. Also, remember spotted sea trout are out of season in December on Florida’s east central coast, so please handle them with care and return them to the water as quickly as possible.

Now is also the time of year when the tailing black drum to begin to show up on the flats of the Banana River No-Motor Zone. These fish will eat live shrimp, clams, and secret bait, and they are also a favorite target fly anglers flipping small black clousers and other shrimp imitations. If you have never seen a 30-pound black drum tailing, it is worth the paddle, and the secret bait, well you will have to book me to learn the answer to that question.

I understand this is an extremely long winded forecast, but in closing, I would like to mention that I have been selected to serve as the senior editor of the new Coastal Angler Magazine website scheduled to go on line soon, so stay tuned for more details as the become available. I will also be speaking at the Daytona Boat Show on the 13th and 14th of January, and the Bass Pro Shop Spring Classic on February 11th and 12th.

Also, I would like to remind everyone that the ultimate holiday gift for the angler close to your heart is a relaxing guided day on the water in his or her favorite angling location, and Florida Guidelines offers gift certificates available with any one of our 27 affiliated inshore, near-shore and off shore charter guides. For more information on Florida Guidelines, visit our website at www.flguidelines.com or contact me.

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

Happy Holidays, and good luck and goof fishing,

Captain Tom Van Horn
www.irl-fishing.com
407-416-1187 on the water
407-355-8085 office
866-790-8081 toll free


If you would like to be added to my mailing list, please contact me at [email protected]
 
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