Sunday, January 21, 2024

Ed Killer / tcpalm South Fla. Report


Florida fishing: Bluefish, sailfish, pompano on the move with winter cold fronts

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” — John Steinbeck, “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”

Steinbeck must have loved catching bluefish because they're running right now from Sebastian to Vero Beach to Fort Pierce to Jensen Beach and Hobe Sound. In fact, you may not know this, but the Florida record bluefish was caught in 1973 in Jensen Beach by Liz Yates and it weighed 22 pounds 13 ounces. That's a whopper of a chopper for sure.

The winter cold fronts are fish pushers. Sailfish, blackfin tuna and dolphin are migrating south with the cold air masses. Along the beaches, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and pompano are moving, mostly. Maybe the mackerel movement has stalled north of Fort Pierce Inlet according to condo owners reports from North Hutchinson Island.

Florida fishing regulations and fishing season opening and closing dates:

  • Spotted seatrout: Harvest re-opened Jan. 1. Central East region regulations — Bag limit: 2 per harvester, zero captain and crew bag limit when on a for-hire trip. Slot limit: More than 15 inches and less than 19 inches total length. May possess one over 19 inches per vessel or, if fishing from shore, one over 19 inches per person, included in the bag limit. Harvest closed Nov. 1-Dec. 31.
  • Snook: Harvest closed Dec. 15. Catch and release until Feb. 1.
  • Grouper: Harvest closed Jan. 1. Includes gag grouper, red grouper, black grouper, scamp, yellowfin grouper, yellowmouth, coney, graysby, red hind and rock hind. Harvest re-opens May 1 in Atlantic waters.
  • Hogfish: Harvest re-opens May 1.
  • Cobia: Bag limit: Two fish per vessel. Size limit: 36 inches fork length. No closed season.
  • Redfish: Harvest of redfish has been banned in the Indian River Lagoon and Mosquito Lagoon since Sept. 1, 2022. FWC will reevaluate in the future.
  • Lobster: Harvest will close March 31. No egg bearers, 3-inch minimum carapace length. Lobster stamp required. Sport season (mini-season) will be July 24-25, 2024.
  • Alligator: Hunt season opened Aug. 15-Nov. 1. Permits required.
  • Flounder: Size limit: 14 inches. Bag limit: 5 fish per person. Harvest closed Oct. 15-Nov. 30.
  • Bass: Bass at Headwaters Lake will soon become all catch-and-release.
  • Indian River County

    Offshore: It's been worthwhile to run north of Sebastian Inlet if you want to catch sailfish, blackfin tuna and dolphin. These fish have been in 120 to 180 feet along current edges. Look for color changes or slight temperature changes.

    Inshore: Black drum, sheepshead, pompano, bluefish and mackerel can be caught around the ends of the jetty. Fish with cut shrimp or sand fleas to catch drum, sheepshead and pompano. Use chrome jigs, Gotcha plugs or Mylar jigs to catch blues and macks on fast retrieves.

  • Freshwater: Crappie (specks or speckled perch) can be caught on tiny jigs and minnows in canals, ponds and lakes in the western part of the county. Blue Cypress Lake is a good place to catch specks in limits when the water cools down.

    St. Lucie County

  • Inshore: Snook — catch and release only until Feb. 1 — can be caught under docks and around the points of mangrove islands on live sardines or mullet. Pitch to docks with live shrimp for shots at sheepshead, croaker, flounder, jacks, ladyfish and bluefish.

    Surf: Paul Sperco of Port St. Lucie and Capt. Paul's Pompano Rigs said it was a good week to be out on the beach. One day, he and his son Randy Sperco caught and released a few permit while also catching bluefish, whiting and a couple of pompano. Fish the falling tide. Look for the right color green water. Use sand fleas or Fishbites.

  • Martin County

    Inshore: Pitch docks and fish the bridges with shrimp-tipped jigs to catch sheepshead, croaker, black drum, jacks and ladyfish. A few people are catching pompano while drifting and jigging the Sailfish Point Flats.

    Lake Okeechobee

    Crappie fishing continues to drive the majority of the angling activity on the lake. Anglers are using small jigs and live minnows and fishing from pontoon boats in the Kissimmee River, around King's Bar, Tin House Cove and near Harney Pond Canal to catch limits. Next week, the MLF Phoenix Boats series will fish out of Clewiston for $75,000. Be ready to share your favorite fishing spots.

  • report courtesy of Ed Killer  TCPalm's outdoors writer. 

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