by Capt. Tom Van Horn
I always use my lavender azaleas as an indicator for the arrival of the cobia migration north through our near-shore waters. Their magnificent blooms favor the same temperatures and weather conditions, and when the azalea blooms peek the time is right. Currently my azaleas are showing some significant blooms, but like the azalea’s delicate blooms, the cobia run will pass before you know it.
The current water temperature in Port Canaveral is 73 degrees which is an indication of a very warm February. As the ocean begins its gradual warming phase, 67 to 68 degrees, watch for the progression of baits schools (Atlantic menhaden and silver mullet) from warmer waters into the near-shore waters bringing the cobia and other predators with them. The warmer waters have also draw manta rays into the shallows shadowed by pods of cobia. Other notable species are tripletail around the buoys and under flotsam, heavy weight jack carvalle near the end of the month, large redfish, and sharks shadowing bait schools. Currently, the cobia have started showing up, and once the seas lay down, cobia mania will begin.
Weather conditions through next Sunday are not looking good with gusty winds and seas up to 6 feet predicted, so let’s hope the cobia are still around when the seas settle down.
Moving out into deeper water, the spring kingfish run should begin with the smaller kings showing up around the middle of March, followed by the smokers, 30 to 50 pounds, in April on the near-shore reefs and wrecks like Pelican Flats and 8A reef. If the bait moves in close to the beach, look for the larger kingfish to follow them. Also, April marks the beginning of the fishing season for many of the blue water anglers with the start of the April/May northern migration of dolphin in 120 feet of water and beyond, and the early part of the run usually includes some of the largest bulls taken all year.
In the inlets and along the beaches, whiting, pompano, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel should remain a staple with sheepshead and black drum holding on jetties and rock piles. As we move into the later part of April, watch for the snook and tarpon action to improve in Sebastian Inlet and then move north following the bait progression.
On the lagoon, high water levels will draw the slot size redfish schools up onto the shallow flats, with the larger breeder schools holding along the deeper edges and sand bars. On the cooler days, focus your attention on sand pockets or potholes, and once the afternoon sun warms the water, look for tailing fish on the shallow flats. Also, the end of March signals the return of silver mullet to the estuary, and the beginning early morning and late evening top water sea trout and redfish action.
Last but not lease, mid-March brings largemouth, stripers and sunshine bass into the equation as schooling bass begin to form up in consistent patterns on the St Johns River. Last year, fifty bass days were not uncommon as schooling pre-spawn and post spawn fish push schools of menhaden to the surface at first light creating explosive top-water action. Additionally, the American shad run is showing signs of improvement, so give shad a shot while they are still here.
As always, if you have questions or need information, please contact me.
Good luck and good fishing,
Captain Tom Van Horn
407-416-1187 on the water