And finally, the rains came! Up until the arrival of Tropical Storm 16, our area of the state was experiencing an unprecedented drought. Both the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Johns River Marsh were low and sometimes hazardous to run before sunrise.The fall mullet run began about three weeks early this year. Right on their tails were the migrating cobia, the return of ocean-going snook, and our favorite, the over-sized redfish.I had an unexpected package show up at my door this fall: a set of the new Tsunami Air Wave heavy-duty inshore rods. I immediately attached a pair of Stradic 5000s on them and headed for the inlet. I must say, for as stout as these rods appear, they cast flawlessly and put the plugs right where I wanted them every time. I’ve also placed them into the hands of my clients, who enjoyed the feel of the rod while casting and fighting a fish as well. For the price (under $100.00 each), these new rods will become very popular with anglers in a very short amount of time. Give them a try!Here’s the Skinny:Sea trout: Deep water canals and troughs are always a good wintertime bet. Start out your morning with a popping cork type rig and as the flats warm up, switch over to a rattling type plug or soft plastic. If all else fails, try dangling a live shrimp under a cork bobber. Pop open your favorite beverage, light up your favorite cigar and wait. You’ll at least catch a catfish.Snook: Sebastian Inlet, Sebastian Inlet, Sebastian Inlet! Wind Cheaters and Silver Spoons should be in everyone arsenal. Live bait will account for a majority of the catches if you hit the tides right. Keep your eyes on what the “locals” are throwing.Redfish: The key to fishing for reds in our area is to be where the fish are. That means spending several mornings on the flats and determining what “routes” they are using over and through the flats. There are some places that you can set your watch by them. Utilize gold spoons, soft plastics and live baits. Bluefish: The bluefish runs through the inlet and along the beaches are known to all that are willing to brave the cold, frigid winds of a wintertime Nor’easter. Some of our best bluefishing days have been on an out-going tide, in the middle of the night, throwing silver spoons into the darkness. Don’t forget your long johns and a winter coat. I’ve never been so cold in Florida than one windy, rainy, miserable night out on the end of the jetty. The only thing that kept us from leaving was that was when the fish were biting!Flounder: It only takes a day or two for the word to get out that the annual flounder run has started at the inlet. There are some nights that the channel has so many boats in it that tangled lines, cut anchor ropes, and boats bouncing off each other like bumper cars are inevitable. That’s why I spend my flounder fishing days along the sandy spoil island edges and mangrove shorelines. Our bait of choice is Riptide’s Mud Minnow with a matching jig head. Lobster: As the inshore reefs become picked over, the hardcore wintertime lobster divers will be switching to “Nitrox” and heading deep. No matter how small, leave no ledge or rock formation unchecked. There are many times that I will take a compass heading of the reef and just swim out 20-30 yards. I’ve found rock formations no bigger than a garbage can holding a limit of bugs, both spinys and shovelnose. Your next “honey hole” may be just out of arm’s (or visibility’s) reach.Waterfowl: Florida will again enjoy a 60-day waterfowl season. First phase will run from November 20th – November 28th, 2010. Phase two will begin December 11th – January 30th, 2011. Fishermen and waterfowl hunters will be sharing the flats during the months of November through January all up and down Florida’s east and west coasts. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. Fishermen are asked to keep a minimum distance of 300 yards from an occupied duck blind or decoy set. This distance will insure that the ducks won’t flare off the hunters and falling pellets won’t rain down on your head. Just remember, waterfowl hunters only get 60 days a year to enjoy their sport. See you on the boat or in the blind!
Capt. Jeff Kraynik is the owner/operator of The Coastal Sportsmen and for the past 20 years has fished the Palm Bay/Sebastian/Vero Beach areas of the Indian River Lagoon. “Capt. Jeff & The Crew” specialize in personalized light-tackle saltwater flats fishing for trout, redfish, snook, tarpon, shark and flounder. Capt. Jeff is an IGFA Certified Captain and a guide in good standing with the Florida CCA. He is a Pro-Staff Fisherman for Riptide Lures, Hurricane “Redbone” Rods, PowerPro Lines and Albackore Tackle Systems. When not fishing the grassflats, “The Crew” can be found on the mudflats of the St. Johns River Marsh guiding clients on trophy alligator and waterfowl hunts. “From the Mudflats to the Grassflats and Everywhere in Between.”Contact Info: Capt. Jeff “The Commodore” KraynikThe Coastal Sportsmen(p) 321 863-9182(w) coastalsportsmen.com(e) firstname.lastname@example.org