by Captain Tom Van Horn
It’s snowing up in Boston, people are stuck inside, and we’re sitting here drifting the tide.
Every morning as the sun is rising, I take a moment to collect my thoughts. I’m always grateful for the favorable climate nature provides for us in Central Florida. It’s a discipline I’ve learned to enjoy. Just yesterday, I was sitting on the deck of Three Quarter Time watching the sunrise. I was dressed in my winter shorts with my feet in the water, pondering the days fishing adventure. With clear skies, gentle breezes, and water temperatures still in the upper seventies, which opportunity would I pursue? Is it near-shore, inshore, or fresh water? Decisions! Decisions! It’s a tough job, but somebody has got to do it.
Like November, December is a month filled with outstanding fishing opportunities. The only difference is the impact of water temperatures on the fishery. Currently, the surf temperature is 77 degrees, and offshore water temperature is 80 degrees. Listed below are some of the opportunities presented in December:
Red Drum and Sea Trout Both redfish and trout will remain in the skinny water as long as the water temperatures stay in the seventies. Fish in protected areas and sunny spots. Look for fish to be holding in sand spots until the sun gets overhead.
Now is the time to target large black drum in the Indian River Lagoon in deeper water around structure and in schools of smaller drum working in the shallow flats.
Good numbers of speckled perch (black crappie) are showing up in the upper St Johns River and lakes. Fish structure or slow troll jigs or live minnows near the bottom. Also, American shad will begin to show up on their winter spawning run near the end of the month. Targeting these species on light tackle is always great fun, and something I look forward to every year.
Near-shore & Inlets
Large redfish were consistent outside Ponce Inlet, Port Canaveral and Sebastian Inlet last month, and they should remain steady through December. At both Ponce and Sebastian, look for these fish working bait on the surface during periods of slack tide, or fish for them off the tip of the north jetties using live bait on the bottom. At Port Canaveral, work the bottom in deeper water just outside the buoy line. These fish will hit artificial baits, but live pinfish, pigfish, and finger mullet are more productive. These are large oversized reds, so handle and release them with care.
Snook fishing will remain steady in the surf and inlets, with Sebastian Inlet proving to be the better location. It is best to target the inlet fish at night, drifting live pigfish and pinfish through the channel, or fish bucktail jigs or large plugs from the rocks. This type of fishing can be quite challenging due to the number of anglers competing for the same fish, and the amount of impatience and discourtesy expressed.
Spanish Mackerel & Bluefish
Large schools of bluefish and Spanish mackerel have been present in the surf and outside Port Canaveral and Sebastian Inlet. Look for bird activity to locate these fish. Fish jigs or spoons fast to avoid cut offs.
The Flounder bite is on with good numbers being reported from both Port Canaveral and Sebastian. Anglers are utilizing both jigs and live finger mullet fished on the bottom. My favorite technique is to slow drift, bouncing baits on the bottom.
Tarpon & Kingfish
Large tarpon and kingfish can be found shadowing bait pods along the beach and outside the Sebastian inlets. Either slow troll live baits on kingfish rigs, or drop live baits into schools of bait in deeper water. This bite should continue as long as water temperatures remain above 74 degrees.
Tripletail & Cobia
Tripletail have started to show up on the Port Canaveral buoy line, and as the water cools the bite should improve. When water temperatures reach 70 degrees or below, look for cobia on weed-lines, near-shore wrecks, buoys, and other structure.
In closing, I would like to thank all of you who have allowed me the opportunity to serve you this past year, and I look forward to fishing with you again in the new year. As always, if you need information or have questions, please contact me.
Happy holidays and God bless,
Captain Tom Van Horn
PS, Gift Certificates are available on my website and they make great holiday gifts for those anglers in your life.