January is usually the heart of the winter fishing season in East Central Florida. Water temperatures will be in the 60s if all is normal, with cold snaps driving them as low as the upper 40s and occasional warm spells lifting them into the upper 70s. This is the time of year that having a shallow draft boat will pay big dividends. I’ll break it down area by area and you can choose.
The Sebastian Rivers most prominent role in January is a sanctuary. It keeps many manatees warm in its north fork’s 15-plus-foot depths. It also keeps a hoard of ladyfish, jacks, an occasional gator trout, redfish, snook and even a few pompano warm on the colder days. Warm weather may get some of the resident juvenile tarpon to roll and once and a while they will take a swipe at a D.O.A. Terror-Eyz or three-inch shrimp. Quarter to half ounce jigs and MirrOlures will catch just about everything else in the Sebastian River.
Indian River Lagoon
The lagoon offers some great options for trout and redfish. Canals, protected shallow bays, and sunny shorelines are excellent areas to find both trout and reds soaking up the suns warmth and sucking up some sluggish baitfish and crustaceans. A good January cold front should clear the waters of the lagoon. The immediate benefit will be the ability to sight-fish for redfish. Sight fishing along shorelines is a good way to find slot size reds, which will generally eat a properly placed live shrimp or D.O.A. soft plastic.
Sight fishing will often time lead to the discovery of certain areas that hold good numbers of trout and reds during cold weather and floating live shrimp is the hands down most consistent way to take everything and anything when the mercury drops. Putting the two together can be the key to winter success. I found that catching fish you can see is difficult for less experienced anglers, but if you remember which sections of shoreline consistently hold fish, then come back to those areas when the wind allows you to drift a live shrimp stealthily through the area from a safe distance, anyone can catch these super spooky trout and reds.
Pompano, blues, trout, weakfish, snapper and small grouper are regular catches around the deeper water flats behind the Sebastian Inlet. Goofy jigs, small diving plugs and live shrimp are all good choices.
Some nice flounder, redfish and snook will remain around the inlet throughout the winter and bluefish, jacks, pompano, black drum, and Spanish mackerel will keep jetty anglers busy throughout the day.
Near Shore Atlantic
Pompano and whiting are the mainstay of surf fishermen along the Treasure Coast in the winter. Sand fleas, cut clams and dead shrimp on three hook dropper rigs are the baits of choice. Boaters looking along the beaches are apt to find blues, mackerel and some pompano on the calmer days. Goofy jigs, spoons, and bucktail jigs worked from the beach or toward the beach from a boat are good ways to search for pompano and blues on calm days. If the weather allows for small boaters to get offshore some, kings, cobia, sailfish and dolphin are all a possibility within 10 miles.
January is a great month for backwater fishing in the Sebastian area, you just need to get out and fish. Gator trout, sight fishing reds and the best pompano bite of the year are just some of January’s high points, so put on the extra jacket and enjoy Sebastian’s hot winter fishing.
FORECAST BY: Capt. Gus Brugger
Pattern Setter Charters