by Capt. Tom Van Horn
November is renowned for delivering breezy easterly winds to Central Florida as our first significant cold fronts pass. Although windy, fishing remains outstanding in and around the inlets until water temperature drop below 70 degrees and as long as sea conditions remain fishable.
In the inlets of Ponce De Leon, Port Canaveral and Sebastian, snook fishing will remain excellent during low light periods and at night as the baitfish traveling down the beach are forced in close to the jetties and other structure with the best action occurring during slack tidal periods, especially the end of high tide. During these periods hungry gamefish take advantage of slower currents and feed heavily. As the tide begins to fall gamefish move into their ambush locations to finish off their frenzy. Breeder redfish, snook, jack crevalle, bluefish, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, sharks, and tarpon all share in the fury, so step up your tackle size and hold on.
My favored technique is to castnet live mullet and drift them through the passes on a sliding sinker rig. Look for areas of feeding activity, birds diving and fish busting, and adjust the size of your weight based on current.
The rig I use starts out with a Daiichi Bleeding Bait circle hook proportionate to your bait size to allow a natural swimming action. In simple terms, small bait small hook, large bait large hook.
Next, I attach a 30-inch section of 30 to 40 pound test Gamma fluorocarbon leader to a 20-pound test braided mainline. If large tarpon are your target or are suspected, step your leader size up to 60-pound test. Before I tie on my hook, I slide my slip sinker on to the leader, then attach the hook, and finish the rig off by using a split shot, small swivel or plastic bead located between the barrel sinker and the hook adjusted to keep the weight off of the hook.
As I drift through the passes, I like to cast parallel to my drift with just enough weight to keep the bait in the feeding zone, and increase the barrel sinker size as the current picks up. Additionally, as we near the end of November and finger mullet diminish, switch to croakers, pinfish or pigfish as bait.
Finally and most important, fishing the inlet passes in November can be dangerous. So as I drift through the inlet I keep the helm manned with my engine running, keeping a close eye on boat traffic and sea conditions. Always be prepared for evasive action if needed.
As the first significant cold front passes and surf temperatures reach the 68-degree mark, flounder slide into the inlets on their annual spawning migration out to sea. The exodus usually begins with the arrival of the smaller 1 to 3-pound gulf flounder (three spot), which are later joined by the doormat size 2 to 14-pound southern flounder.
Many anglers prefer to anchor up and fish live finfish on the bottom, but I favor drifting the lagoon side of the passes bouncing a 1/4 ounce DOA CAL Jig 3" CAL Shad tail on the bottom. This vertical jigging technique allows me to cover more area and catch a wider assortment of species. Likewise, as lagoon temperatures cool, pompano are another likely target as they congregate on the lagoon side of the passes before moving out to their winter haunts along the beaches to feed on sand fleas (mole crabs) their favorite winter food.
Cobia and tripletail fishing can be very good this time of year depending on ocean temperatures (71 to 74 degrees is best) and winter weather conditions. To target them, head east out of Port Canaveral or Sebastian Inlet looking for rips, sargassum and flotsam pushed in by the easterly fetch. Once you have located the floating structure, work the rip with the sun to your back looking for fish suspended underneath. You can catch them on spinning tackle or fly, or a live shrimp on a jig.
Water levels are still on the high side in the lagoons, but as we move into the winter months falling water levels and cleaner conditions will facilitate increased sight fishing prospects for both redfish and sea trout. Additionally, we are currently near the end of our fall mullet run, so these inshore species of fish will be transitioning their feeding habits from finfish to shrimp and crab, so adjust your lure selections accordingly and look for more tailing fish up on the flats.
Although coming down slowly the St Johns River is still at flood stage. As water levels drop and the ramps reopen, look for the crappie bite to kick in on the big lakes of the St Johns River. Cooler water temperatures will facilitate groups of crappie in deeper water in preparation for spawning. This seasonal transition marks the beginning of crappie season in Florida. My preferred methods are to slow troll several long lines out the side rigged with TTI Blakemore Road Runners tipped with live minnows as well with several vertical jigging rigs set up with tandem jigs tipped with live minnows. Crappie are often overlooked by most Florida anglers, that is until to catch a few and cook them up, and from that point on you are a crappie angler.
If you are a crappie or American shad angler, the 9th Annual Central Florida Shad and Crappie Derby begins on November 1st and extends through the winter into spring. It's free for anglers and you can fish anywhere in Florida, so be sure you stop by a participating retail location before you hit the water and sign up. Visit https://www.facebook.com/OrlandoCoastalAnglerMagazine for more details.
Saving the best for last, the 4th Annual Catfish Toy Rod Challenge for Charity is approaching. This event is the most fun anglers can have with their clothes on. It is scheduled for Sunday November 26th from 8:00 to 1:00 PM at Mullet Lake Park near Geneva, Florida.
The Toy Rod Challenge is a holiday season charity toy run for anglers. Teams of anglers compete and the largest total inches of catfish wins. Rules require anglers to use only toy rods as they compete for the title of Catfish King and Catfish Queen. The highlight of the event is a boat parade and fish fry at the end. For more details on the Annual Catfish Toy Rod Challenge please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, if you have questions or need more information, please contact me.
Good luck and good fishing,
Captain Tom Van Horn
Mosquito Coast Fishing Charters