As the tropical storm seasons wanes on Florida's east central coast, passing summer squalls and higher water levels have impacted the seasonal fishing conditions we traditionally experience in October.
Combined with last week’s super moon and a steady northeasterly fetch, the lagoon water levels are the highest I’ve seen in years. These conditions are so intense this year the St Johns River was flowing in the wrong direction last week causing stalled out water levels above flood stage south of Lake George in the Aster area.
Acorns dropping, love bugs hatching and my fall flora in full bloom are all signs of our seasonal changes and indications my favorite time of year to fish has arrived. Fall has certainly arrived as hordes of black and silver mullet, Atlantic menhaden (pogies), thread fin herring (greenies), and bay anchovies (glass minnows) have begun their southerly migration in search of warmer waters. This migration creates a Chinese Buffet of yummy little baitfish heading south, shadowed by a large array of hungry predators looking to fatten up for the winter.
If weather permits, near-shore opportunities are the best you will see all year. Along the beaches, target areas of concentrated bait schools for a mixed bag of snook, tarpon, kingfish, cobia, jack crevalle, oversized redfish, and sharks. Additionally, snook fishing in the surf has improved as the baitfish move south along the beach. Also look for schools of glass minnows to begin showing up bringing larger Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and tarpon with them. For the past several weeks our sea state has been elevated with 3 to 4 foot wave heights, so keep an close eye on the weather and watch for calmer seas.
As always, concentrate your fishing in and around the inlets of Ponce, Port Canaveral, and Sebastian looking for flounder, snook, jack crevalle, and oversized redfish feeding on migrating baitfish along the jetties and just outside the inlets. Easterly swells, elevated and falling tides and aggressive anglers can make for sporty angling conditions, so please pay attention, be patient, and enjoy the rewards. Remember when fishing in these challenging conditions to keep you engine running and someone positioned at the helm ready to react if needed, wear your kill switch and be careful anchoring in swift currents.
In the north Indian River and Mosquito Lagoons, higher water levels will allow anglers to venture into areas normally inaccessible during the spring and summer months. Look for slot redfish in close to the grassy edges along the shoreline shadowing pods of finger mullet, and for the larger redfish staged in deeper water ambush sites where migrating mullet are forced to venture out from the safety of the shallow flats. In deeper water areas, look for ladyfish, spotted sea trout, jacks, and tarpon feeding on schools of glass minnows. These schools of fish are easily located by watching for bird and fish activity. Once located, these schools will produce explosive action on small top water plugs, or popping bug flies. Also, if you locate a school of the larger black mullet, try fishing spoons of soft plastic baits deep under the school. Even though, mullet are vegetarians, redfish and sea trout will often mingle in feeding on shrimp and crabs kicked up from the bottom by feeding mullet. If you find heavy mullet schools working the shallows, try fishing with a DOA Shrimp very slow within the mullet school.
Lastly, this is the spawning season for redfish. Breeder schools of redfish can be found in the open waters of the flats, inlet passes and in open waters off of the beach. These over slot redfish are great fun to catch, but remember their spawning success is the future of our fishery. With that said if you target them please step up the size of your tackle (20-pound tackle or larger) to facilitate a shorter battle and handle and release them with extreme care.
WRITTEN BY CAPT. TOM VAN HORN