by Capt. Tom VanHorn
Let me begin my December forecast by wishing everyone a very fishful holiday season. Each year I’m amazed by how quickly the time passes, and 2017 was no exception. So far my 2017 fishing season has been an excellent one. Please visit my photo gallery on my website at http://www.irl-fishing.com/gallery and see some of the outstanding catches my clients made this year. It is my hope that you and those closest to you have a wonderful holiday season and spend some time on the water together.
Although the water quality in the Lagoon system has improved some, overall conditions remain challenging with elevated levels and dirty water. I know many of you enjoy sight fishing, but with high and dirty water visually locating fish on the flats can be difficult, but in spite of these tough conditions we still managed some great catching adventures. As we progress into winter, water levels typical drop and clear up, so some of this forecast is based on my past experiences.
Starting with the lagoons, both redfish and sea trout will remain in the skinny water as long as the water temperatures stay warm. Inshore flats fishing is best once the sun warms the water a bit, so sleep in and enjoy a good cup of coffee before heading to the ramp on those cold mornings. Focus your fishing in protected areas and sunny spots, and look for fish to be holding in sand patches and areas with mucky bottom until the sun gets overhead. Another tip is to fish with smaller shrimp and crab imitation baits with a very slow presentation as cold fish are sluggish feeders.
When the weather is nice and the seas are fishable offshore, solid concentrations of kingfish will be holding on the inshore reefs and wrecks in 60 to 100 feet of water. Several prime locations to target December kingfish are the north end of Pelican Flats and 8A reef out of Port Canaveral. The kingfish bite should remain steady as long as ocean water temperatures stay above 74 degrees. When near-shore waters approach the 70-degree mark, start looking for cobia and tripletail along Port Canaveral buoy line and the shallow waters just off and in the bight of the Cape. These two species normally hold around floating structure, but they also tend to free swim once the water temperatures warm up in the afternoon.
If the ocean conditions are a bit too rough, good concentrations of breeder redfish will be holding in the inlet passes of Ponce De Leon and Sebastian. Try drifting the passes during the falling tide bouncing live pinfish or croakers along the bottom. In the Port Canaveral shipping channel, work the edges of the channel using the same technique. Remember these are oversize redfish, so please step up the size of your tackle to lessen the stress of the fight, and release them with extreme care to be caught again on another day.
Snook fishing will also remain steady around Sebastian Inlet as long as the water temperatures stay warm. It is best to target inlet snook during periods of slack tide fishing live pigfish, pinfish, or croakers at night in the channel under the A1A Bridge. Another notable species worth mentioning when speaking of inlet fishing is flounder. Depending on surf and lagoon temperatures, the flounder migration can stretch into December, with stragglers filtering through the passes all month.
If the winds are westerly, concentrate your efforts along the beach, and look for pompano to begin moving off the inshore flats to the deeper troughs along the beach. Also, look for schools of bluefish and Spanish mackerel shadowing pods of glass minnows and other bait is the surf. To target both blues and Spanish, watch for birds working bait pods, and through small jigs like the D.O.A C.A.L. and spoons with a fast retrieval to avoid cutoffs.
On the upper Saint Johns River look for the American and hickory shad runs to commence near the end of the month, and intensifying in January and February. Shad fishing is one of the most overlooked fisheries in Florida, and a fun fish to catch on both fly and light tackle gear. Additionally, all winter is crappie season, so don’t underestimate these tasty morsels. Currently water levels remain high, so please be careful while navigating these waters.
In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who fished and worked with me this past year for your business and friendship, and I am looking forward to spending more time on the water with you in 2018. Also, now is the time to purchase your 2018 charter gift certificates by visiting http://www.irl-fishing.com/gift-certificates , so purchase a charter in advance for yourself or that special angler close to your heart, and go fishing with them.
As always, if you need more information or have questions please contact me.
Good luck, good fishing and happy holidays,
Captain Tom Van Horn
Mosquito Coast Fishing Charters