[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ebruary, with its low water temperatures and brisk winds, can be a daunting time for inshore anglers in the Sebastian Area. The glamour species, snook and tarpon, are memories of the past and hopes of the future. The near coastal Atlantic and Sebastian Inlet, where a month or two before large predators roamed, now seem to lay dormant with bluefish and bottom dwellers, such as sheepshead and black drum providing the bites. The Sebastian River is fulfilling its role as a thermal sanctuary for manatees, snook and tarpon, but ladyfish are all that can consistently be hooked-up. That leaves the Indian River Lagoon as the only other option and a good option it is.
The top two fish that I pursue in February are seatrout and redfish. A couple of factors will determine where and how to catch both, temperature and water level. First, let us talk redfish because the rules are simple. Regardless of temperature or water clarity, you need to find a grass flat or mangrove shoreline with enough water to float your boat or with a hard enough bottom for you to wade. Then drift, pole or trolling motor very quietly throwing a weedless gold spoon, 4-inch D.O.A. C.A.L. jerk-bait or tipped skimmer jig and cover as much area as possible. If the water is gin clear, you can sight fish along the mangrove shorelines and pitch live shrimp, skimmer jig, D.O.A. shrimp or flies to reds hanging around the pockets and points formed by the mangrove roots.
As for trout fishing, there are two distinct strategies. Smaller trout are generally found in deeper open water areas usually relating specifically to a drop-off. Spoil island banks, sandbars, edges of flats, natural and manmade channels, and deeper water grass beds around the inlet are good places to work a jig, D.O.A. shrimp, small diving plug or live shrimp to stay busy with small to keeper size trout. Larger trout will be on the flats sunning themselves and ambushing the larger baits they prefer on all but the coldest days. Anglers sight-fishing for reds are often amazed by how many five-plus-pound trout they see sitting in inches of crystal clear water. Unfortunately, there is very little you can do to catch these gators when you find them. One out of a hundred may take a live shrimp or properly placed artificial if you see them before they see you. I take note of areas where I see numbers of these big trout and come back another day when I have some wind or cloud cover and wade fish the area or anchor the boat upwind and hope with some help from wind and current I can float a live shrimp through the area. Bass Assassin jerkbaits, MirrOlure Catch 2000 Jr., and handpicked shrimp on a short leader below a small float will take these bigger fish. Be quiet, stay low and cast long.
Investing in a pair of waders can pay great dividends this time of year. Wade fishing spoil islands, flats edges and sunny shorelines with live shrimp, flies and artificials can lead to some of the best catches of the year. Use the wind and current to make long casts and natural drifts to get into gator trout and reds. Occasionally, big snook show up on the flats in the spring and can be an added bonus while fishing for trout and reds.
Pompano will still be a target of both surf and lagoon anglers in February. Sandfleas and cut clams are the preferred baits of surf fishermen who line up north and south of Sebastian Inlet. Yellow and pink Doc’s Goofy Jigs have accounted for most of my pompano in the last few years. Hopping the jigs along the bottom behind the inlet and around spoil islands is the best way to target the tasty hard fighting pomps.