by Capt. Jon Zeller
December fishing should be exciting with the late fall fronts that could hold exceptional fishing through the month. Near shore and intermediate reefs all the way to the blue water will give anglers a fun alternative to holiday shopping. Bottom fishing will find a variety of reef dwellers that may be caught by those dropping baits anchored or drift fishing. Cut herring and squid on double rigs will capture most of the fish including grouper, cobia, trigger fish, porgies and a variety of snapper. Please be sure to have a venting tool and de-hooker at the ready to release the numerous red snapper that will be caught while trying to catch the other good eating reef fish legal to keep. December marks the last month to keep grouper until spring so have solid bottom rod and a reel spooled with 80# using a long 100-125# leader single rig with a fresh live bait or big chunk bait.
Trolling offshore of Ponce Inlet this month, boats should target the near shore reefs from 75-95’. Large schools of kingfish, along with cobia, bonita , and a few dolphin or sailfish will be holding close to the bottom structure. Dead bait trolling the Party Grounds or the East Ridge is a good place to start. Pull a mixed spread of two deep lines on planners or downriggers using spoons or bonita strips along with skirted ballyhoo or bonita strips on the surface is a guaranteed method to draw numerous strikes. Double ring 3 ½” Drone spoons in silver, green or red colors are longtime favorites on the deep lines preferably using 80# monofilament leaders. Work the reef until large columns of bait show on the fathometer and then circle the pods for a bite.
The late fall fronts will give anglers a chance to catch numerous billfish in one day as the sailfish bunch up before cold fronts push the bait and schools of sailfish to south Florida. Trolling from 180 – 350’ will find captains looking for surface activity or the schools of bait pods that mark on their bottom machines which hold sailfish. Deepwater structures including ledges, wrecks or steeples are a good place to look while keeping a watchful eye out for temperature variations, color changes and free jumping sailfish. If any of these favorable conditions are present in the shallower blended or greener water of 100-160’, do run past the area, but try fishing this spot first. Remember most of the fall activity was in 90-120’ along the color change. Trolling a mix of small naked swimming ballyhoo along with bigger wahoo bait in the spread around a variety of surface teasers and deeper dredge teasers with swimming mullet or ballyhoo is the most effective way to draw a strike.
FORECAST BY: Capt. Jon Zeller New Smyrna Beach Billfish Invitational Sport Fishing Charters (386) 290-4181 www.nsbbi.com