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March 02, 2009

March 09 - Mosquito Lagoon, Indian River, and Ponce Inlet Backcountry

Winter patterns still showcasing excellent sight fishing on the inshore waters of East-Central Florida. Redfish, trout, and black drum dominating the opportunities with snook action picking up after recovering from a cold weather fish kill.

It's March and despite some fairly good fishing, I'm quite happy to be leaving February behind. Winter struck hard in February, bringing very cold weather and gusty winds for much of the month. During the middle of the month we experienced a hard freeze, and with it my main concern as a snook fisherman happened with a major cold weather fish kill. Despite the lackluster weather, it was a busy month of charters and fishing. Water levels are still pretty low, the water is still crystal clear, and it's still great action for sight fishing schools of fish. Fly fisherman are still seeing excellent shots for redfish and trout, two anglers even caught their first redfish on fly with me during the month. Tarpon are also getting a little more frisky. Our light tackle catch numbers slowed a bit from previous months; we're still posting double digit days on most outings, however it's down from the epic 30-40 fish days we were having.

The Redfish bite has definitely been the most consistent opportunity over the past month. The schools are holding tight to deeper water just adjacent to the way too shallow flats. Most of the schools I have been fishing have anywhere between 50-300 fish in the school. We've been ranging throughout the Mosquito Lagoon and New Smyrna Beach backcountry and diligent work has generally kept us away from the crowds still fishing spots that once were hot long ago. We're still catching double digits on most day we specifically target redfish with most fish ranging between 4-12lbs. DOA shrimp and a Mirrolure plug have been my two most productive artificial lures, but most days it's taken a live shrimp to find a consistent bite. The windy weather limited how much time I spent looking for GIANT redfish in the 20-40lb range. There are several schools now up and moving on the edges of the flats in Mosquito Lagoon and the North Indian River, but we need decent weather or it's not really been worth the effort. We caught two that were around 18lbs over the past two weeks when we got a slight wind break. Fly anglers are having good success on redfish as of late. Longer leaders and delicate (but accurate) presentations are key. I had the pleasure of guiding two anglers to their first redfish on fly over the past month. The flies of choice lately have either been a kwan, ep crab, clouser minnow, or borski slider.

Just as the Snook action was about to explode, everything went terribly wrong. Two nights of 26 degree weather dropped water temperatures into the low 40's and we experienced a major cold weather snook kill, erasing 8 years of progress (the last one was back in 2001). Snook around here can tolerate 50 degree water temperatures for short periods of time, however we saw two days where the water temperatures barely made it to 50 degrees. Thousands of snook ended up dying in the Ponce Inlet backcountry. I found 20 fish dead that were over 40 inches (upwards of 30lbs), too many to count that were 30-40 inches (10-20lbs). The good news is it wasn't a total loss. I explored every nook and cranny I could around Ponce, New Smyrna Beach, and down into Mosquito Lagoon and found a few areas that are holding fish that survived. The water has warmed back up and the fish are now more active. Some of these active snook shorelines are nearer my preferred redfish and trout stomping grounds which limits the drive distance. Catching is starting to improve and during the past week I had a day where we caught 8 over the span of a couple hours with a few fish over 26 inches. A few clients got to put snook in the boat recently, but we are way off the numbers we were seeing and catching at the end of January. Snook fishing for right now will be something we add to the day instead of our exclusive target. Mirrolure mirrodines, DOA shrimp, and small paddle-tail plastics are the main choices for lures.

Spotted Sea Trout also continue to provide good targets when prowling the flats in Mosquito Lagoon. The trout are moving up shallow during the morning hours to warm up in the sand spots. As the bait concentrations increase over the next month the bite will really begin to pick up. Historically looking back, late April, May and early June are when we catch the biggest fish of the year as these giants fill their belly on the arriving baitfish and increase in body weight. I caught several four to six pound trout recently, but it's a tough task sight casting trout in shallow water for everyone else. The redfish bite has been much better and consistent, but trout make a great add-on once we get enough of catching reds in the Lagoons.

Tarpon are getting more active, especially over the past two weeks. The problem with tarpon fishing right now though is it's only a one or two day event every couple of weeks. It takes several days after a cold front to get the tarpon up and moving, by that time another cold front seems to be knocking at the door and it shuts them back down. So by the time the water warms up, there is only one day that might produce. Regardless, I have found a couple sections of water that have a few dozen active tarpon from 10-25lbs when the timing is right. The bridge I mentioned last month now has a few fish working it at night too. So they are starting to move around. I had one bite this past week, broke the fish off quickly there after. I expect the opportunities to increase as we work our way through March.

Another change of pace fish is Black Drum. Everyone else seems to know about the 5 main schools in the Mosquito Lagoon and North Indian River. At anytime the schools may hold 500 or more fish, but they will splinter into several groups of 100 or so after catching a few. They are relatively easy to catch if you're using the right baits. I'd rather fish other things first, saving these for later in the day if necessary. Judging by my pictures, catching 8-12lb redfish has been more of a priority.

March is almost fully booked, with limited dates still open. I look forward to fishing with you soon?
386-212-4931.

Recent client catch photos can be found on my website...
www.floridasightfishing.com/report.htm