The Fall Mullet Run Arrive
As hurricane seasons wanes off Florida’s east central coast, passing summer squalls and higher water levels have impacted our seasonal fishing. Combined with a prevailing northeasterly fetch, these high water levels have arrived Indian River Lagoon and St Johns River.
The love bugs hatching, acorns dropping and my fall flora in full bloom are all signs of our seasonal changes and indications my favorite time of year to fish has arrived. Fall has arrived as masses of black and silver mullet, Atlantic menhaden (pogies), thread fin herring (greenies), and bay anchovies (glass minnows) have begun their southerly migration in search of warmer waters. This migration creates a buffet of yummy baitfish heading south, shadowed by a large array of hungry predators looking to fatten up for the winter.
If ocean conditions permit, near-shore opportunities are the best you will see all year. Along the beaches, target areas of concentrated bait schools for a mixed bag of snook, tarpon, kingfish, cobia, jack crevalle, oversized redfish, and sharks. Additionally, snook fishing in the surf has improved as the baitfish move south along the beach. Also look for schools of glass minnows to begin showing up bringing Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and large tarpon with them. For the past several weeks our sea state has been angry with elevated wave heights, so keep a close eye on the weather and watch for calmer seas.
One of my favorite techniques for catching snook and redfish in the surf is to match the hatch using live finger mullet in the surf. To do this, you first need the ability to keep your bait alive. For me, I simply use a cast net to catch bait and keep it alive in an aerated bait bucket. You can also purchase live finger mullet in most bait shops Like Captain Hooks in Titusville or Chum-it-up Bait and Tackle in Port Canaveral. Lively bait is the key to success in this situation.
When fishing from the beach, I prefer using live finger mullet as bait, matching the run. Fish the very edge of the beach, just beyond the whitewater, and walk along the beach letting your bait drift along in the direction of tidal flow. My rig consists of a #3 Daiichi Bleeding Bait circle hook, a one-ounce barrel sinker, and a 24″ section of 40-pound test fluorocarbon leader. I also prefer to use 20-pound test braided high-vis Courtland line to improve sensitivity and avoid line twist. First, slide the barrel sinker onto the terminal end of your braided line, and then splice in the leader, the knot will allow the sinker to slide freely up the braided line, keeping it off of the leader and the hook. This technique will allow bait to cover more ground and help keep your bait in the strike zone longer. Make sure your reel has the strength and line capacity to handle a large fish, so you don’t get spooled.
The inlets of Ponce, Port Canaveral, and Sebastian are good locations to target flounder, snook, jack crevalle, and oversized redfish all feeding on migrating baitfish along the jetties and just outside the inlets. Easterly swells, elevated and falling tides and aggressive anglers can make for challenging angling conditions, so please pay attention, be patient, and enjoy the rewards. Remember when fishing in these challenging conditions to keep your engine running and someone positioned at the helm ready to react if needed, wear your kill switch and be careful anchoring in swift currents.
In the north Indian River and Mosquito Lagoons, higher water levels will allow anglers to venture into areas normally inaccessible during the spring and summer months. Look for slot redfish in close to the grassy edges along the shoreline shadowing pods of finger mullet, and for the larger redfish staged in deeper water ambush sites where migrating mullet are forced to venture out from the safety of the shallow flats. In deeper water areas, look for ladyfish, spotted sea trout, jacks, and tarpon feeding on schools of glass minnows. These schools of fish are easily located by watching for bird and fish activity. Once located, these schools will produce explosive action on small top water plugs, or popping bug flies. Also, if you locate a school of the larger black mullet, try fishing soft plastic baits deep under the school. Even though, mullet are vegetarians, redfish and sea trout will often mingle in feeding on shrimp and crabs kicked up from the bottom by feeding mullet. If you find heavy mullet schools working the shallows, try fishing with a DOA Shrimp or CAL Tail very slow within the mullet school.
Lastly, this is the spawning season for redfish. Breeder schools of redfish can be found in the open waters of the flats, inlet passes and in open waters off the beach. These over slot redfish are great fun to catch, but remember their spawning success is the future of our fishery. With that said if you target them please step up the size of your tackle (20-pound tackle or larger) to facilitate a shorter battle and handle and release them with extreme care.
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