The Mosquito Lagoon, along Florida’s Space Coast, boasts a legendary track record for downright explosive red drum and spotted seatrout fishing. Even through the winter months, anglers can still find reds and specks on the prowl in some serious sized schools. Captain Michael Bales, a native central Floridian, of Hotfish Charters, knows Mosquito’s waters like its his backyard, because it literally is. I joined Capt. Bales on January 15th in search of some winter reds as the past few weeks Bales has been regularly finding redfish schooling up in some decent sized pods in the northern reaches of the Mosquito Lagoon.
“I target the North end of Mosquito Lagoon, behind New Smyrna and Edgewater, along deeper drops and sand sloughs and flats,” said Bales. “In winter, when the sun’s up high, the reds will tail and school up in the 6-inch to 1 foot shallows. When its cold out like it has been, in the 40’s at night, they will hang out along the edges of the deeper holes and channels to warm up.”
Bales’ go-to lures are a 3-inch Berkley Gulp shrimp in white or a live shrimp threaded on a 1/16- to 1/8-ounce size 3/0 hook red jighead. Light tackle outfits can be 7-foot St. Croix Legend rod with Shimano 4000 Sustain reel spooled with 20-pound braided line, Albright knotted to a piece of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader. On our trip, schools of reds by the dozens pushed up on the 1 foot flats and a few pinpoint casts with live shrimp put us into drag-peeling redfish of 18 to 28 inches, though we did see some bulls up to 20 pounds in the mix. Gator seatrout up to the 8-pound mark were darting below Bales’ skiff as we spooked them on the drift. Fat southern flounder to 4 pounds were sunning on the flats and chasing down the shrimp-lanced bucktails. For the middle of January, a lot of life was around. February should see larger schools of roving reds on the Shotgun Flats, Whale Tail, and by Middle Island. — Nick Honachefsky
Captain Mike Bales