by Capt. Tom Van Horn
American Shad and Crappie
Despite high water levels on the St Johns River system good numbers of speckled perch (black crappie) are showing up in the upper St Johns River, and the big lakes of Monroe, Jessup and Harney. Fish structure or slow troll Road Runner jigs or live minnows near the bottom.
Also, look for the American shad to begin showing up near the end of the month on their winter spawning run. American shad are an incredible species to catch on light tackle and fly, and if you have never experienced this fishery, you should book a day with me and learn how it is done. American Shad fishing is the closes Floridian’s get to the salmon runs of the north and we are catching them during the winter when the northern rives are frozen over.
Nearshore and Inlets
Near-shore and in the inlets, large redfish were concentrated outside Ponce, Port Canaveral and Sebastian Inlets last month, and they should remain steady through December. At both Ponce and Sebastian, look for redfish chasing bait on the surface during periods of slack tide, or feeding along the bottom during periods of falling tidal flow.
At Port Canaveral, work the bottom in deeper water just outside the buoy line along the channel ledges and look for concentrations of Atlantic menhaden (pogies) and muddy water spots in 15 to 30 feet of depth. These breeder size redfish will hit artificial baits, but live pinfish, pigfish, pogies and finger mullet are more productive. Remember, these are oversized reds, so step up the size of your tackle and handle and release them with extreme care.
Snook fishing will remain steady in the surf and inlets, with Sebastian Inlet proving to be the most productive location. It is best to target inlet snook at night by drifting live pigfish and pinfish through the channel, or fishing bucktail jigs or large swimming plugs from the rocks and catwalks. This type of fishing can be quite challenging due to the number of anglers competing for the same fish and impatient and discourteous anglers, so please pay attention, be courteous, stay safe and enjoy the rewards.
Schools of bluefish and Spanish mackerel have been feeding on glass minnows (bay anchovies) along the beaches and outside the Inlets. When targeting these species watch for bird activity and work small jigs or spoons fast to avoid cut offs. A small trace of wire can be added ahead of your bait to reduce cut offs, but in some cases the keen vision of the toothy mackerel will reduce the number of strikes. Also, if you see pelicans diving on bait and then holding their bills down in the water to strain the water from the smaller baitfish before swallowing, you are in the right spot.
The Flounder run is on with good catches being reported from both Port Canaveral and Sebastian. Anglers utilizing either jigs, live finger mullet or mud minnows fished on the bottom are experiencing the best results. My favorite technique is to slow drift the Inlet passes, bouncing DOA jigs combined with a 3″ DOA CAL Shad Tail on the bottom. This tactic allows you to cover more ground, and once you have located a hot spot, you can anchor your boat and concentrate on the area.
Tarpon and Kingfish
Further off the beach, tarpon and kingfish can be found shadowing bait pods outside the Inlets. Either slow troll live baits on steel stinger rigs, or try dropping live baits into schools of bait in deeper water. This bite should continue if water temperatures remain above 74 degrees.
Tripletail and Cobia
December is also the month when tripletail begins to show up on the Port Canaveral buoy line, and as the water cools the bite should improve. When water temperatures drop below 70 degrees, look for cobia on weed-lines, near-shore wrecks, buoys, and other structure. Once the water temperatures drop below 68 degrees, target cobia on the deeper wrecks and hard bottom where the water is a bit warmer.
Red Drum and Seatrout
On the Lagoons, water level is very high and the water is dirty. With this said, focus your efforts on shoreline and backwater areas as sight fishing is incredibly challenging. Also concentrate your efforts in areas of baitfish and fish with shrimp and crab imitation sort plastics or live shrimp.
In closing, 2020 has been an exceedingly difficult and challenging year on many levels, but if you are reading this forecast, you have survived to fish another day. For me, I am at a crossroad in my life where spending time with friends and family has become a priority so I am not sure where 2021 will take me. I’m not one to dwell on the past, but instead focus on the future. With this said, value your time on the water with family and friends and have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
As always, if you have any questions or need more information, please contact me.
Good luck and good fishing,
Captain Tom Van Horn
Mosquito Coast Fishing Charters