As anglers on the Florida’s Space Coast, we are truly blessed by the many opportunities winter brings.
Offshore, kingfish will still be consistent along the inshore reefs and wrecks, and they will remain there as long as the water temperature stays above 68 degrees. When targeting kings, focus on bottom structure in the areas of 8A reef, Pelican Flats, and Bethel Shoals to the south. Also look for cobia and amberjack to be present on the inshore wrecks like the Carol Lee, Dutch, and Sub Wreck out of Port Canaveral. Additionally, live bait is sometimes tough to find this time of year, so always carry a box of frozen Spanish sardines with you as backup.
Near-shore, look for tripletail concentrations to improve greatly along the Port Canaveral buoy line and under floating weeds and structure, and for cobia to move in shadowing manta rays if the surface water temperatures reach the upper 60s. If we experience an extended period of warm weather, look for a mid-winter cobia run to arrive.
Now is also the time for shore anglers to target pompano, bluefish, weakfish, small black drum, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel and whiting in the surf and larger redfish and flounder around the inlets and jetties. As the water temperatures cool, the pompano will move out of the lagoon and gather in the troughs along the beach in search of mole crabs and sand fleas, their favorite winter food source.
As water levels and temperatures drop inshore, clear and shallow conditions on the Mosquito, Indian River, and Banana River Lagoon flats facilitate some of the best sight-fishing experiences all year. On clear, sunny days, successful anglers focus on quietly polling the flats is search of redfish and sea trout holding in the sandy potholes soaking up the sun’s warmth. An early start is not necessary, so read the paper and have an extra cup of coffee before heading to the lagoon.
Additionally, mullet and other finfish have migrated out of the area for the winter, so as the predators feeding habits switch to smaller shrimp and crabs, anglers should switch to a smaller bait and slower presentation. When targeting redfish, black drum, and sea trout during the colder months, I like to downsize my bait and fish with a shrimp or crab imitation baits like the DOA Shrimp and Crab on a Woodie’s Rattle Hook. January and February are also key months for targeting tailing black drum on the exclusive Banana River No-Motor Zone. The zone is one of the only locations I know of where a well-presented black Clouser fly can land you a 25-pound drum on the flats.
Catch-um-up, and reward yourself by taking a kid fishing.
Captain Tom Van Horn