Captain Ron's Fishing Reports (December)
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Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island, December 2005 

Well, here it is. The last report of 2005. I hope you all have a very prosperous and fishy new year.

The Christmas fishing season turned out to be a real mixed bag. Every day was different. Although the mornings have started out cool, the day usually warmed up fairly well. On one Banana River trip Dennis and Celina were in Florida for the Christmas holidays. They came from the much colder state of Illinois to enjoy some Florida sunshine and hopefully some good fishing. Like so many of our friends from the north, the cool 40 degree mornings did not seem to bother them. It did kind of bother the fish though because we did not catch a fish until around 10:00. Then we managed to hook up with some spotted sea trout and few reds.

The first trout came on live shrimp free lined and pinned to a 3/0 circle hook. We were using the normal 12 to 14 inch leader attached to the main line. This simple rig is a great way to cast shrimp up under and around the many docks that exists along the river. A little later, after the bite had started on the live shrimp, Dennis was able to fool a few of the sea trout with a plastic CAL paddle tail rigged on a ¼ ounce CAL jig head.

The trout measured in up to 17 inches and the biggest red was an eight pound beauty. So, when all was said and done Dennis and Celina had treated themselves to a special Christmas gift of their first sea trout and their first redfish. Not a bad gift at all.

The next day I met another Dennis over on the Indian River side of the lagoon. This Dennis was down from Pennsylvania with his wife Chris and seven year old daughter Sara. Chris and Sara were off to Disney and planned to join us the next day. Dennis is an avid fly fisherman and wanted to target the wily redfish on this trip. It was another cool start to the morning with a north wind keeping it cool. It turned out to be one of those days where you say something like “it’s just nice to be out on the water.” Well, it is always nice to be out on the water but it’s nicer if you can catch some fish. We didn’t. One small sea trout gave in to one of Dennis’s many presentations of several different fly patterns. And that fish felt like an ice cube when I removed him from the hook. Knowing that you need to know when to fold em’, we headed for the dock looking forward to tomorrow when Chris and Sara would join us for another Banana River trip.

 Given the cool conditions and the lack of fish on the previous day I ask Dennis to meet me at Kelly Park about 10:00 am. This was the latest scheduled time in recent history for beginning a fishing trip for me. However, when you get those morning lows in the 40’s, day after day, it is not a bad idea to just sleep in a little and start your day after the sun has had an opportunity to warm the water some. Since Chris and Sara were joining us Dennis ask me to concentrate on getting them some fish and he would work in a fly presentation from time to time.

 The first spot we stopped at produced a nice 15 or 16 inch trout for Sara and about a 15 inch rat red for Chris. Both fish came on live shrimp. A couple of other locations produce nothing. Then, abut noon we found a spot that began producing redfish and trout in a fairly consistent manner. Similar to a couple of days earlier, once the bite started Dennis brought out the fly rod and hooked up a couple of nice trout. Sara and Chris continued to catch their reds and trout on live shrimp free lined near a small but adequate drop off about 20 feet from shore. One of Sara’s reds was a multi-spot red that would have been a great spot tournament fish.  The wind was relatively strong out of the northwest all day long so we had been hiding along the west bank of the river to gain some protection from the wind. When the bite slowed we moved again to a relatively deep hole hoping for a few more fish before the trip ended.

 This area ranges from 6 to 9 feet deep and often holds fish on some of the cold winter days. When we arrived another boat was already positioned on one side of the area. We carefully motored by and worked our way into the opposite side of the hole without disturbing the already present angler. We ask how he was doing as we passed by and he responded with a smile that he had caught about 20. We soon discovered that what he caught was small schoolie sea trout which had congregated in the deeper water.

In this spot we caught all our fish on artificials. Dennis had worked the fly rod to his advantage and caught several of the schoolie trout while Chris caught hers on plastic.

That’s what it’s all about. Good Fishin’’.

Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island, December 2005 

Merry Christmas

 I just want to start off by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. This is a great time of the year, one I always enjoy. Sharing with family and friends in the spirit of the season is pretty hard to beat.

 Christmas Shopping

 If you have not found the right Christmas gift for that important person on you list, why not a gift certificate for a fishing trip? Just contact me and I can have you a gift certificate in no time flat! The good part is, the fishing trip is for two – so you can go too.

 This Weeks Fishing

 I am extremely happy to report that the water is beginning to clear and the fishing is picking up. Two trips this past week produced numerous spotted sea trout, a few reds, and even a snook.

 I took my grandson out one day hoping to get him on some fish since we had not been out for awhile. Luck was with us and we found a spot that produced a bunch of fish on soft plastic lures. It was one of those days, even though the weather has been cold, that anything seemed to work. Robert was using a CAL series paddle tail on a ¼ ounce head.  He would cast out, let it fall to the bottom, and then begin a very slow retrieve with an occasion twitch. The trout were willing to bite on various colors, but electric chicken was all you really needed. In fact, Robert caught 30 trout, to 16 inches, on the same CAL electric chicken paddle tail. Not bad, did not have to change tails once.

 Before we decided to call it a day, Robert had beaten me by four fish. I managed 26 of the schoolie trout. I caught them on root beer, electric chicken, avocado, and white. They did not seem to be that particular.

 On another trip this past week I fished with Lenore, from Texas, and Tom from Maryland. It started off like another cold blustery day but the winds subsided some later in the morning and it proved to be a decent weather day.  After the first hour of the day passed without a single fish being caught it was looking rather bleak. But then Lenore got the day started with a nice sea trout.

 We moved on to another area where Lenore scored again and Tom followed pretty quickly with a sea trout of his own. To this point all the fish had come on live shrimp even though we had also thrown a lot of plastics. This spot and one more a little further south produced 5 or 6 trout and one lonely whiting that happened along.

Another move took us to an area with several docks and on the second one Lenore landed her first ever redfish. It was a little short at 16 inches, but nonetheless she was excited to get it.  She caught several more as we put the Power Poll down and fished this hole pretty heavily. We were staying with the shrimp, simply because the plastics had not produced any fish. However, after a couple of reds and several trout came out of this area I suggested to Tom that he try a plastic bait. He willingly obliged and immediately caught a nice sea trout on the electric chicken. A little later he hooked up on a nice little red and finally, even caught a 20 inch snook to make it a slam! Once the bite began, and it was not until later in the day, it continued for about an hour and a half before slowing. 

 We moved on and fished several other areas on our way back to the dock, but the best was over. Tom and Lenore left the dock headed for Grills and a seafood lunch; I headed for the house and the job of cleaning up the boat for the next trip. The lesson of the week, during this time of the year you just do not have to get out there too early. We did not leave the ramp until 9:00 this morning and did not have a good bite until at least 10:30. That will vary from day to day, but sleep in a little and get a later start. It might just put you on more fish a little quicker.

 That’s what it’s all about. Good Fishin’’.

Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island, December 2005 

Christmas Fishing Forecast (My Boga Grip Bottoms Out at 30 Pounds)

Finally, it seems like the weather is going to settle down and give us some decent fishing weather. After canceling three trips last week due to the rain and wind, it is certainly a welcome relief. With morning low temperatures in the 40’s, we can expect the water temperature to drop as well. The good news of all that is that you really do not have to get on the water as early. In fact, with the fishing turning to cold weather patterns you many even improve you catching by waiting until the sun has an opportunity to warm the water a few degrees.

With the onset of the winter temperatures the fish seek comfort in deeper water and that means you need to seek the fish in deeper water. We can expect the water temperatures during the Christmas fishing season to be in the 60”s. The best tip for the winter fishing pattern is slow down your retrieve and then slow it down a little more. I use lots of CAL plastics fished slowly along the bottom. I also have good success with the DOA shrimp.

One fish I target more often in the winter is the black drum. They tend to congregate around area bridges during this time of year. These fish can be caught on blue crabs (I usually cut them in half) and large live shrimp. If you can scrape some barnacles from the bridge pilings this will sometimes improve your chances. I like to use a sliding sinker rig with about 20 inches of 40-pound leader material below the weight and a 5/0 circle hook to seal the deal. When I target these fish I beef up to at least a 20-pound rig so I can pull the hefty creatures away from the barnacle encrusted pilings. Depending on the size of the fish, you may lose more to cut offs than you bring to the boat.

Not all the fishing is in deeper water because as temperatures moderate, as during a particularly warm period of days, the fish will show up on the flats earlier in the morning. Even on the cooler days, the fish will show up on the flats, just later in the day after the sun has had an opportunity to warm the water a few degrees. Trout and redfish alike will be found sunning themselves in sandy potholes up on the flats.

THIS WEEKS FISHING

The number of fish caught this week was not great, but the size of one of them was!

I fished this week with Bill and Carol from Utah (originally from Scotland) and we had a nice day on the water. It was an afternoon trip so the cool weather was not a significant problem for the anglers. The water temps may have affected the fish though because they were not very cooperative. By the end of the day, we had boated 1 mangrove snapper, about 15 inches, two trout at about 17 inches each and a few pinfish. Not a significant day. Nevertheless, with anglers like Bill and Carol it was still a great day with lots of wildlife and other interesting sights on the river.

Could it get any worse? The next day we only got one fish to the boat. BUT, a fish it was! Today it was Scott and Brian from Chicago Land where the temperature was 26 and it was snowing when they boarded their plane. They did not complain about the 40-degree temperatures we were having. After about an hour of fishing we had jumped one ladyfish and boated nothing.

It was very windy, right out of the north, and I queried the pair if they would like to try some Black Drum fishing. I warned them that we would be exposed to the cool wind and rough waters of the river with the wind blowing from the North. I told them it would be “brutal” They were game and we headed for a bridge.

We rocked and rolled on two passes under the bridge, scraping barnacles off of the bridge pilings to hopefully attract some hungry black drum. We beefed up to 20 pound rods rigged as I described above. Pinned a jumbo shrimp on a 5/0 circle hook and waited for some action as we bobbed up and down in the waves. Scott hooked up first and I went for the motor to pull us away from the pilings. Fight lasted  30 seconds before the big guy cut us off.

As I was re-rigging Scotts pole, Brian yells, “Whoa!” I turn to see his pole bent double. I start the engine and motored out about 20 feet to help him pull the fish clear. This time we got him out only to see him break off after about 3 minutes of hard tugging. It can only go down to equipment failure because Brian had done everything right. Now both rigs are out of commission.

We re-rigged and set up again. Before the day was over, we hooked up six times, got two away from the pilings and landed only one. Scott landed his 4th hook-up with some great fish handling techniques. He cast only to the edge of the pilings instead of deep under the bridge and when he hooked up he went immediately to the bow of the boat to gain a quick 20 feet on the hard pulling drum. This was enough for me to get the engine started again and pull away from the bridge and the barnacle encrusted pilings.

After a few minutes we managed to get the over-sized fish into what looked like a tiny dip net and we brought it aboard. A few quick high-fives and a few photos later we put this magnificent fish over the side where I revived him by a back and forth motion to force water and needed oxygen through his gills. It wasn’t long until he surged forward from my hands, presumably returning to the safety of the structure of the bridge. Scott was smiling and I suspect he is still smiling.

Brian had hooked up twice and got one away from the bridge only to lose it to a break off. Scott hooked up 4 times and got one to the boat. In the end the winds subsided a little and no one complained about the “brutal” conditions. My Boga Grip Bottoms Out at 30 Pounds, I am guessing the fish weighed about 40 pounds.

That’s what its all about.

Good Fishin’

 

Banana River - Indian River: December, 2004 It has been a tough month for fishing. I have been neglecting my duty to report the fishing activity, probably because there has not been that much to report. It seems like since they closed the Canaveral Locks the fishing on the Banana River out of Kelly Park has slowed down tremendously. Several trips on the Banana River produce little for our effort. The winds have been high and temperatures cool.

On the Indian River the fishing has been better. All varieties of fish from pompano to reds and trout have been available when you could find decent conditions. I have caught a lot more fish on live and cut bait during the colder weather. You need to find the deeper holes where the fish move in search of warmer water temperatures. The forecast for the first part of January looks good as far as the weather is concerned. Maybe a few warmer days will move the fish back up on the flats. At least we can hope so. Actually, if you wait until later in the day on a sunny day your prospects of finding reds on the flats will improve. Sometimes it only takes a few degrees increase in the shallow water to bring them up to feed. The main thing is to just get out there and fish. That's what its all about. Happy New Year.

 

Banana River, Cape Canaveral Report: December 27  Fished with Bob from Michigan today. Bob had left Michigan just to get away from the snow.  The day was almost a duplicate of my last report. It started off cool but promised to warm as the day went on. The water temp was a cool 58 degrees. Being a Saturday, there were a lot of boats fishing the mouth of the port. Unfortunately, it did not look like any one was catchin', just fishin'. There was some bait present, mostly in the form of glass minnows, but no fish showed up to bend our poles. After patiently fishing the area for about two hours we moved inside the port just as we did last time. Again, the large pinfish were gathered near a dock and you could not get the bait near anything else because the pins would attack it as it sunk through the water column.  The pins are running really large, and give a great fight on light tackle.  In fact, I brought my grandson out yesterday just so he could try out the new spinning outfit I got him for Christmas. He had a blast breaking in the new rig on 12 inch pinfish. There were a few bluefish mixed in the catch this morning, but not nearly as many as last time. Searching for something different, we proceeded through the locks and into the Banana River with even poorer results. One puffer. Weekend anglers were everywhere, and none of them reported any positive results. So, back through the locks we went to pick up where we left of with the pins.  We just fished until we had no shrimp left, catching 10 to 13 inch pinfish on almost every cast. It wasn't really anything to brag about, but it sure was a lot of fun. That's what its all about. Good fishin'.

Cape Canaveral Report: December 24  Another cool start to the day, but Jim and his son Greg from Wisconsin were plenty familiar with much cooler weather. The day started off with threatening clouds and light rain but quickly changed to a fairly nice day with light winds shifting slowly from NW to NE. The bite was slow most of the morning but we did manage to boat and release several blue fish up to about a pound and a half. It was a day of catch and release, just looking for some pole bending action. Greg, at 15 has been fishing for several years and is actually bringing his dad around to the sport. With accurate casts and excellent strategy with respect to bait placement and positioning he was the champ in pure numbers of fish caught. Most of the blues came on shrimp, a few on mud minnows, fewer still on cut mullet and one lonely blue was caught on a silver spoon. With hopes dwindling for another species of fish to show up in the mouth of the port, we moved inside the port to finish off the morning. We came upon a school of super large pin fish, some of them over a pound and about 12 -14 inches long. Not usually a targeted fish, these guys gave us some great action to end the morning. Jim and his family are one of the first to purchase a new time-share in the Ron John Resort so we are sure to see more of them in the future. That's what its all about. Good fishin'.

Banana River Report: December 1 and 3 Monday the 1st of December was cold, windy, and cloudy.  The15 mile per hour winds blowing from the northeast made seeking shelter a necessity.  I tailored to Kelly Park and headed for the East side of the river to find some protection along the shoreline. The winds were so high you had to stay really close to shore to keep from drifting to far to fast.  The morning did not produce any fish on artificials. The river is still murky and the winds and waves add to the poor visibility.  Having no luck on the artificials I began to free line shrimp, pitching them up under docks and near the edges of mangroves. Caught a few undersized trout and the ever present pin fish. Finally, about 10:30, after the sun had gotten up and warmed the shallow water some, I free lined a shrimp to the western most end of a small mangrove island in about 8 to 10 inches of water.  The line tightened, I let the fish go for a short count and set the hook.  A few minutes later I landed, measured, and released a 26 inch red fish for the only decent catch of the day. My wife had removed my "fishing camera" from my bag, the one I always keep in my bag for fish pictures, so I didn't get to take a photo. You will just have to take my word for it.  It was a nice fish and a nice fight on an otherwise miserable day.  I headed back towards the dock thinking how glad I was that at least the winds were at my back.

Wednesday, December 3 was another no photo day. Not because I did not have my camera, but because the bigger fish did not cooperate.  I was fishing with Ron, his 16 year old son Mike, and Grandpa Brad.  Ron and Mike are from Illinois and came to enjoy a day of Florida fishing.  The winds were worse than Monday, and again the only way to fish was to hug the East shoreline.  We threw a few artificials early, but quickly switched to shrimp and cut ladyfish. The only fish that cooperated on this day were catfish, pin fish, pig fish, snappers, and of course we had to put up with a few puffers.  It is not the kind of day you like when you have out of town clients, but we did catch a lot of fish, probably around 50, under what was less than favorable conditions.  It would have been easy to stay at home on a day like this, with winds approaching 20 miles per hour, but  Ron and Mike had to return to Illinois soon so we gave it our best shot and actually ended up having a fun time on the water. "If you don't go, you don't know." That's what its all about. Good fishin'.

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