|Captain Ron's Fishing Reports (January)|
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Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island, January 2006
Fishing the Docks for Cold Water Reds
With the water temperature remaining in the 50ís the fish really tend to be lethargic. The last thing they are willing to do is chase down an artificial bait screaming through the water at a rapid clip. So, if you are using plastics like the RipTide Realistic Shrimp or the RipTide Mullet, slow down that retrieve. In the cold water I prefer the Realistic Shrimp. You have to fish it slow. Once you think you have slowed it down, slow it down some more. I donít know any other way to say it. You have to slow down your retrieve in cold water.
I like the Realistic Shrimp in the cold water because you can produce a more natural presentation in the sloooooow mode. I rig them on a small 1/4 or 1/8 ounce jig head to get them down to the bottom. Use a loop knot to attach them to your leader. I usually use a 20 pound mono or fluorocarbon leader, depending on water clarity. The loop knot allows a little left-to-right wiggle in addition to the up and down motion you will produce.
Toss this rig back under a dock and let it settle to the bottom. Then, with nothing more than a lift of the rod tip, bring the lure up 8 to 10 inches and let it fall. The wide body and stabilizing legs on the Realistic Shrimp produce a slow and natural fall to the bottom. Let it rest there a while before repeating the process again. Remember, the water is cold, the fish are lethargic and the motion has to be slow. You will experience some strikes as the shrimp falls to the bottom, but some will come after the shrimp has actually settled down and is lying without motion on the river bottom. Keep reminding yourself how cold the water is and how slow you need to work the bait.
If you continue this process without success you might want to try some live shrimp. You can rig the same way, only tying on a 3/0 circle hook in place of the jighead. With the live shrimp you are not going to move the shrimp at all. Just toss it back under a dock and wait. Hopefully the fish will smell the shrimp and move to its location and decide to eat. Remember, with the circle hook you do not want to give a big bass hook-set. Just let the redfish pick up the shrimp and swim off a bit. When you feel a tight line between you and the fish just start reeling. Once your rod tip begins to bend a little it is ok to give a couple light but deliberate hook sets just to seal the deal, but not until you have solid pressure on the rod. Just donít do it too quickly.
We used this method on a recent trip with three members of the Sheriffs Department from Orlando. Ed, Brad, and Ken had been trying to schedule a trip for over a year and it seemed like something always got in the way. So, when they decide on a day in January, nothing was going to stop them. Not even the 20-25 mile and hour winds that were projected. Since it was another cold January morning we didnít leave the dock until 9:00. We headed south on the Banana River to fish some docks located on the west side hoping to be protected from a Southwest wind.
Well the wind never blew from the Southwest while we were fishing, just the South. It got windier as the day went on but we got most of our fishing in before the big blow. Ken was the first to hook up and it turned out to be a nice slot sized trout. Then Ed scored on the first of several reds, all of which measured at 16 inches. One of the reds was a multi-spot red, I forgot exactly, but I think we counted 27 spots. When this guy grows a couple of inches he will be a great spot tournament fish. Ken and Ed both caught several of the rat reds before the day was over. Brad failed to catch a red, but he added some variety to our day with catfish and sheepshead. The water temperature was 56 degrees. Much colder than I like to see but we still managed to catch some fish.
One thing you should notice right away is that when fishing with live shrimp in this manner you are automatically fishing very slowly since you are not moving the bait at all. You donít really have to think about it. Donít forget this when you are fishing with plastics, you have to keep it slow, slow, slow when the water is cold, cold, cold. And 56 degrees is cold!
The next trip was similar, with cold river water temperatures. At least we had had a couple of warmer days and the water temperature got above 60. Thatís still pretty cold and you still have to think SLOW. On this day, Jerry from Ft. Lauderdale and his friend Perry who was visiting from New York drove up for some Banana River fishing. They spent the previous day on an offshore trip in 6 to 8 foot seas so the 10 - 15 mile per hour wind and the relatively rough Banana River did not seem bad to them.
We once again fished some docks which had previously produced some cold water reds. Perry was the first to score with a healthy fat little red. Since it was his first redfish we decided to do a CPR (Catch, Photo, Release). While recording Perryís first red Jerry mentioned that he had also not caught a red. Even after living in Florida for 30 years, he does most of his fishing offshore. So, we all indicated that we hoped he also caught his first red today.
Well, as fait would have it, after missing a couple of pretty good strikes Jerry hooked up and had his first redfish on the line. The brawny red tried to go between every set of pilings between him and the boat. Jerry skillfully put some backbone on the feisty redfish turning his head each time he headed for a piling. After several minutes of finessing the red from between two docks Jerry had the fish along side the boat and guided him into the dip net. The fish topped out the slot at 26 Ĺ inches and weighed 6.5 pounds on the Boga Grip. Not bad for a guyís first redfish. Perry caught another small red and a small trout to finish out the days catch. Not a great day in numbers but a first redfish for each angler and a really nice red for Jerry.
That's what its all about. Good fishin'.
In The Future
On a scheduling note, if you are in the Ft. Myers area Ė the Florida Sportsman Fishing Show will be held there on February 4th and 5th. Mark your calendars and come by the Florida Guides Association Booth and say hi. Let me show you some of those RipTide lures and how I rig them.
Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island, January 2006
Never Know What You Might Catch
If I have said it once I said it a thousand times. ďI love saltwater fishing because you never know what you are going to catch.Ē So, the first picture I am going to post for 2006 is a seven pound sheepshead caught while fishing some docks for redfish. It was a cold, cold morning. Temperatures dropped down in the thirties all along East Central Florida and I told my party there was no need to even leave the dock until 10:00 am. This was the second trip in a row that I called for the late departure due to cold temperatures.
The bite has been slow, but my anglers had been consistently catching a few spotted sea trout and redfish. Most of the activity has been on live bait with a few fish coming on plastics. Given this recent history I decided to take todayís anglers, Robert and Jim, on this coldest morning yet, to fish some docks that happen to be in deeper water. Robert is from Central Florida and he was hosting his friend Jim who came down from Virginia. As was the case in other recent trips the bite was very slow to begin with but began to pick up as the sun rose high above us.
It still wasnít great but we would catch a little red once in a while and we boated a couple of sea trout as well. As we moved from dock to dock, simply putting the Power Pole down and fishing each one for a while, we collected 8 or 10 fish. Then as we moved to a new dock and set the Power Pole one angler snag his rig on the dock and we had to break it off. Since we were free lining some nice sized live shrimp up under the docks, I would re-rig with a 20 pound mono leader (Iím still using mono, the water is still a little stained and the mono is working fine. As the water clears, I will switch back to fluorocarbon.). I have been tying the mono leader to the Power Pro braid with a double-uni knot and adding a 3/0 circle hook on the end. With live shrimp I still like to use a loop-knot to attach the hook, giving the shrimp a little more ease of movement.
Well, before I started re-rigging I picked up another rod for Jim that had a clacker type float with about 14 inches of mono below the float, and the usual 3/0 red circle hook. I put a live shrimp on and the rig was cast toward a dock and landed right next to a piling. Before I could begin my chore or re-rigging the float was gone. Instantaneous strike! I yelled to my angler, Jim, to start reeling. I had already cautioned him on a big hook set while using the circle hooks. Jim reeled and the pole bent. It was obvious we had a nice fish. A few minutes later after turning him from one side to the other between two docks that were not over 25 feet apart we had the big red close to the boat. A time or two it looked like he would take us to the pilings but luck was with us and we got him out. He was hooked on a 7 ft. medium action rod and a Shimano 2500 for the reel. It was the only rig on the boat that had mono instead of braid.
The landing net was still in the compartment under the deck of my Pathfinder so I instructed Jim to just hold on a minute and keep the redfish near the boat while I retrieved the net. When I picked up the net it also drug out a small soft-sided cooler that had a little snap hook on it on the end of a tether. The luck we had earlier getting the big red out from between the docks was quickly departing. The hook had caught on the net and as nets can be, it just wouldnít come loose. About that time I heard the cracking sound of stretching monofilament line breaking and I new the fish was gone. Jimís only words, ďtoo lateĒ. We all three just let out a big sigh.
The red looked to be 28 to 30 inches and too big to keep, but it would have been a real nice photo opportunity. We continued to catch a few smaller reds and one seven pound sheepshead before we decided to call it a day. The big sheepie came from a dock just north of the one the big red had been lying under. The sheepshead had found a nice little spot where 3 pilings, very close together formed a nice little triangular area for him to hide and feed around. The sheepie bit several times, stealing the bait each time before we hooked him and aggressively pulled him out from under the dock. Robert decided the sheepshead would make a nice dinner and we placed him in the live well.
Well, it was time to leave for the dock and we had done much better than I had expected. I love saltwater fishing! It was a fun day with lots of excitement. We lost the big one but that happens in fishing. Part of the fun is in the hunt. The run up the river, even at 10:00 am was a little cold, but once we stopped and fished the west bank to protect us from the west wind it was pleasant. So, donít let the temperatures get you down, just start a little later and let that warm Florida sunshine do its thing. Thatís what itís all about. Good fishiní.
As always, you can visit my website to view pictures of the fish we catch.
In The Future
On a scheduling note, if you are in the Ft. Myers area Ė the Florida Sportsman Fishing Show will be held there on February 4th and 5th. Mark your calendars and come by the Florida Guides Association Booth and say hi.
Indian River January, 2005 Cold weather has continued to keep the water temperature cool. Nightly lows in the 40's has produced water temperatures in the 50's. With temperatures this low, you can either wait and go fishing later in the day after the sun has had a chance to warm the water some, or possibly check out the power plants. Be careful, of course with the manatee zones around the plant discharges. On this day the discharged water was not all that warm, but the water in the area was in the 60's which gave the opportunity for a decent bite. The ladyfish were out in force, as they usually are and the trout, although small were numerous. Both kinds of fish were hitting the CAL shad bodies in avocado and electric chicken. These lures were fished with long casts and slow to medium retrieves, lifting and lowering the tip of the rod to allow the lure to rise and fall in the somewhat dingy water. Our photo op came when Jim hooked an7 pound sail cat on an electric chicken shad body. These guys can give you a great fight on light tackle. You can click on the thumbnail to get a better look at the big sail cat.
The other lure that worked perfectly today was the DOA shrimp. When using this lure, you make long casts and work it back to the boat slowly. When I feel a tap on the shrimp, I like to lower the tip of my rod for just a two count before setting the hook. Just give the fish, spotted sea trout in this case, time to eat it. We had strikes at the end of a long cast as well as near the boat. Some fish would hook up within 12 -15 feet of the boat. So don't get in too much of a hurry if you don't get a fish right a way. Just keep working the DOA shrimp slowly, slowly toward the boat. We lost count of how many trout we caught, but none turned out to be "keepers" The largest trout of the day was about, you could guess it, 14 1/2 inches!
My friend Jim also used up a couple dozen live shrimp, but they did not do any better that the DOA imitations. We both lost several nice fish today which we did not identify. One big fish had picked on a live shrimp suspended under a Cajun Thunder float. He broke off and swam away with the float in tow. On inspection of the reel, the drag had not been checked, and it was like zero drag. Jim really didn't have a chance with that one, but it reminded us of a basic fishing lesson. Always, always, check your drag before you get started or you too could loose a really nice fish.
We had determined earlier that we would fish until noon and then head for home. At 1 minute before noon the green Cajun Thunder cork showed up moving east to west just beyond our casting range. We waited a couple of minutes hoping it would get close enough to attempt a cast over it and get lucky enough to snag the line and find out what it was that broke us off. It never did get close, and we were trying to leave. Then, 12:05 Jim says," there's the jacks again". We had been seeing them all morning, but never close enough to cast to. He yelled, "just east of that pelican". I picked up the closest rod and pitched a jig rigged with a yellow and gray paddle tail on it just east of the pelican! Bingo! An immediate hook-up and the big jack started taking line. The fight only lasted about a minute before he pulled loose and was gone. Then, just a couple minutes later and further east toward the shore, Jim hooked up with one of the jacks just before they were getting out of casting range. But, it just wasn't to be. That one pulled loose also. The school again moved out of range. I looked at Jim and said I am leaving again! He agreed and we headed for the dock after a fun morning, plus 20 minutes, on the water. It was a great day with lots of fish! That's what its all about. Good fishin'.
Indian River January, 2005 This day's fishing report is about a whole nuther day compared to earlier in the week when my fisherman from the other side of Orlando were here.. The skies were cloudy but the wind was light. The river was calm as we started out the day in 46 degree of coolness. It felt really good to have on a heavy jacket - I even dug out my stocking cap for the trip. Jim, the angler with me for the day got started with a really nice ladyfish. The fish hit the old reliable avocado split tail from CAL. We had jumps and long runs and then runs under the boat, and any thing else the fish could think of to free itself. They don't call these ladyfish "poor man's tarpon" for nothing. Jim finally worked him to the boat for the release. The fish measured almost 28 inches. A really big ladyfish.
Its always fun to write a fishing report when you get a fish like the one that showed up next. The next fish to the boat was a nice fat snook. When these snook jump they look so much like a large mouth bass it kind of reminded me of my bass fishing days. A fellow guide and friend, Terry Lamielle, calls the snook a "bass on steroids". This one headed for Cocoa Beach trying to rid himself of the lure. After several aerial displays and some drag-screaming runs, Jim finally got the big snook in the net. We admired it, took a photo, and released it to be caught again. The lure that tempted this big guy was also a CAL, but a paddle tail instead of a split tail and the color was the "electric chicken'. Click on the thumbnail and look close, you can still see the lure in the fishes mouth in the picture. You can also see my red nose and the means we were taking to stay warm on this cold January day. This fish fell right in the middle of the not less than 26 inch or more than 34 inch slot requirement for snook. Remember, snook season is still close but will reopen February 1st.
The day continued with numerous large ladyfish. Most of them were over 20 inches and full of fight. Jim caught most of them on the CAL avocado split tails or the electric chicken paddle tail. It was a really fun day on the water. That's what its all about. Good fishin'.
Indian River January, 2005 Today was a really windy day. My fishing partners for the day were Joey and his dad Tommy, two excellent and experienced anglers. They had come down for some winter fishing on the Indian River. Joey was from South Carolina and Tommy from the other side of Orlando. The wind was blowing and the waves were crashing on the dock near Titusville as we started out the morning. We hadn't wanted it to be quite this wintry. It was one of those days where it is no fun to be on the river. Joey and Tommy had only this day to fish, so we decided to make the best of it.
We really had no choice but to find some protection in canals off the river if we were to get some fishing in. Just getting there was a tough wet ride on the Indian River. We fished hard in three different canals and produced about a dozen small sea trout. We met one other boat in one of the canals and they had had about the same luck. I really don't think we would have caught anything had it not been for the experience and determination of Joey and Tommy. The water was cool and the wind was high, it made for very difficult fishing conditions. Sometimes mother nature just throws you a curve ball. This was one of those days. Most of the fish came on the ever effective CAL split tail in avocado. You have to remember when fishing these lures in cold water to slow down you presentation considerably. The fish are just not as aggressive as they would be in warmer water.
The weather was chilly, the wind was high, and it rained on us several times. But we just had to put up with it and keep on fishing. That's what its all about. Good fishin'.
Indian River January, 2005 Wow! January started off with a bang. Some of the best "catchin' " I have experienced since the cold fronts began. After several days of warm weather it seems the bite has picked up. Spotted Sea Trout were all over the river today. Catches came on CAL split tail and paddle tail plastics. The color of choice was either white or avocado, but root beer and electric chicken worked also. The numbers were great, but the size was not. All , and it must have been at least 50, were short, going up to about 13 inches. After all the fun with the trout I moved north on the river and found a school of pogies working on a flat. At one point the flat just exploded as a school of jacks ravaged their way through the school of pogies. The jacks would literally hit anything you threw at them. A Zara Spook ripped across the surface as fast as possible would start a competition between the jacks to see who could eat it first. The same CAL split tails also worked on the jacks. Probably 15 of the jacks in the 6 to 8 pound range came to the boat on various lures. It was just one of those days!
Later in the day, still throwing the avocado CAL split tail, I was about to call it a day when a tap and a bent rod made me think I was hung up. Then the drag started to scream. I knew immediately I hook something really big. I hope you know the feeling, when there is just nothing you can do but hang on. A power fish running directly away from the boat was testing the Stradic 2500. I turned the fish once, or he turned on his own, I'm not sure which, but I gained back a little line then he ran again in the direction he had originally started. As the line flew off the spool I'm telling myself "he's going to spool me". I decided to palm the spool to add a little pressure and the fish was gone almost as quickly as he was hooked. Actually, I probably save a spool of PowerPro by doing it, but still its hard not to second guess the decision to palm that spool. Now I certainly will never know what ate the avocado split tail. That's what its all about. Good fishin'.
Indian River: January 26, 2004 The day started off calm and clear but a front was quickly approaching from the West. It looked like and proved to be a short day on the water. By the time a likely spot was found along the West side of the Indian river to the North of Cocoa the wind was already picking up from the South. What was usually a nice slow drift during the morning had quickly changed to a fast drift with occasional gusts that moved the boat much to quickly for effective presentations of the lures. After catching only one small trout I decided to pull out the anchor and stop the boat completely in order to fish out a particular area. This strategy began to produce some fish. The fish seemed to strike best when the sun was making its way through the openings in the clouds and the only lure I caught a fish on was the DOA CAL jerk bait in pearl with a chartreuse tail. With all the wind and a need for long casts I rigged the bait on the CAL series jig head, a red one with gold eyes. A slow retrieve, bouncing the lure along the bottom produced numerous trout. After only a couple of hours fishing, with the winds getting stronger and clouds getting darker I made that decision I always hate to make. I headed for the dock, and probably just in time as the rains did follow. That's what its all about. Good fishin'.
Banana River: January 12, 2004 The weather has been cold and windy. Opportunities to fish have been few. On this afternoon, the winds died a little and the sun warmed the air to a tolerable point. I could not resist heading out. The water temp was about 59 degrees at the dock but I hoped to find some warmer water and some bait fish over some skinny flats. This was not to be the case. The water temp in the channel and the water over the flats was the same 59 degrees. I approached what looked like some fish activity on one flat only to find, literally, hundreds of sting rays. The abundance of rays had muddied the water even more than it already was. Some of these rays were very large, as much as 24 inches across. This is not the ones you normally see on the flats, at least not in these numbers. Since I don't know, I will ask you, do larger rays come into the rivers to spawn or seek food during this time of year? Send me an email if you know the answer.
Well, lets face it. You don't catch fish every time and this was one of those times. I tried jerk baits, curly tailed jigs, top-water, medium water, low water, etc. -- you get the picture. The only fish I saw caught was a nice sheepshead around some pilings. I saw this angler at the dock later and he told me he caught the one sheepshead on fiddler crabs, and that was it. Keep in mind, if you like sheepshead fishing, this is a good time to do some because the big boys tend to show up this time of year. Remember to use a small hook and a small piece of bait, it doesn't take much to entice the sheepies.
I always hate to quit fishing, but it was time to go. I prepared for the ride back to the dock by taking one spinning rig that the line was twisted on and planned to drag behind the boat to remove the twists. If you have never tried this, it works! Just take off any terminal tackle and let the line out behind the boat as you move positions or return to the dock. I did, and as I was heading in, taking care of other chores to prepare for docking, I had the best bite of the day. My rod bent double and the line zinged through the water from south to north. Wow, what a strike, and I didn't even have a lure on! You guessed it, another boat came up from the port side, passed me behind and screamed on by on my starboard side as he headed for the dock. The pole came limp just before I thought it was going to break in two. I checked it out, it seemed fine. I guess it was just as much my fault as his, since if I had saw him coming I could have retrieved my line which was over a hundred feet behind the boat. But, he could have given a little more room to my boat as well, its a big river. When I got to the ramp he already had his boat on the trailer, I think he was in some kind of a hurry. I told him to be sure and check his prop for monofilament, since he had stripped all of it off my pole. He said he would.
Needless to say, on this day I just got the consolation prize, which actually wasn't bad. See the picture insert above. That's what its all about. Good fishin'.
Indian River: January 6, 2004 We left the dock at Port St. John today about 8:00 am. I was fishing with Gary Craig. Gary produces a great fishing website, Gary's Central Florida East Coast Fishing and is an avid fisherman. I know some of you may be reading this report from his page, but if you have not visited his site before, just click the link above for great fishing info. We first fished the outskirts of the discharge at the FPL plant without success. Interestingly, another boat had ventured all the way up to the wall near the small pipe discharge. I don't know if they were unaware of the fact that they were not suppose to be there, or if they just went anyway. For the rest of us, it should be noted that the area inside the buoys is closed to entry and therefore fishing until March 31st.
Next we fished the east side of the river across from the power plant where we picked up several small trout. We were fishing just ahead of the cold front that was coming, but after a full moon the night before. The bite was pretty slow. Gary caught his trout on a jerk bait scented with garlic. He fished it about 6 to 8 inches behind a small split shot to keep the bait down near the bottom. I caught my trout on a DOA shrimp in the 1/4 oz size. I used the chartreuse color on this particular day, letting it float slowly to the bottom. After setting there briefly, I would "swim" the shrimp for a short distance across the grass, about 10 to 12 inches. I like using a really slow retrieve in the cooler weather, and the 3 inch shrimp as opposed to the larger ones that are available. If conditions call for a more weedless version you can easily make the shrimp weedless. Visit www.doalures.com/weedless.htm to see how easy it is.
After another boat thoughtlessly motored between us and out target destination we had set up on a float with the wind, we decided to run on up the river to another flat. Our excitement built, as we found millions of mullet (we had not seen any bait in the previous areas). Usually, you find the bait and you find the predators. This was not the case today. All that bait but no fish. This day had been predicated with small craft advisories, but the morning had been absolutely beautiful, although there were approaching clouds in the distance. Since I had an appointment to have my trolling motor checked out, we decide to pick up and leave all those mullet milling around and head for the dock. By the time we reached the dock the wind had picked up slightly but not serious. By the time I crossed the Pineda bridge over the Banana River the white caps were raging. You know the rest of that story, the cold front hit and the temperatures dropped. I hope it warms up soon and the wind stops blowing because I can't wait to get back out there. That's what its all about. Good fishin'.