The American shad run on the upper St. Johns River has begun and should be swinging into full gear by mid-January. And if this year’s run is anything close to what we had last year, be on the lookout for Captain Tom and Three Quarter Time when you are passing through shad alley. During the peak of the run last year we scored some hundred fish days on both fly and spin and the run is great fun for experienced anglers and beginners alike. Also, if you enjoy a fresh fish dinner occasionally, the specked perch (crappie) bite has been and will continue to improve in all the big lakes, rivers and creeks in Central Florida.
On the flats of Mosquito Lagoon and other non-tidal estuaries, falling temperatures and water levels set the stage for some of the best sight fishing experienced all year. The water is shallow, and the fish are spooky, so a stealth presentation and long cast are critical. On colder days, target deeper locations where the water is a few degrees warmer and slow down your presentation. Some other warm water refuges are concrete structures that hold heat longer like seawalls, ramps and bridges, and deeper holes with black muck bottoms that absorb heat.
As the day grows longer and the flats heat up, the feeding and tailing activity of redfish and black drum improve as the shallow water warms up faster. Another very important part of the equation is to match the hatch. Remember mullet are tropical fish which migrate south for the winter, so during the winter the primary forages on the lagoon switches from fin-fish to crustaceans like shrimp and crabs. When targeting red- fish, black drum, and sea trout during the colder months, I like to downsize my bait, slow down my presentation, and fish with a shrimp or crab imitation baits like the D.O.A. Shrimp or Crab.