[dropcap]J[/dropcap]anuary 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 70s. The changing temps will move the fish around more than at other times of the year, but by using a bit of common sense you can find some excellent inshore opportunities. 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 a large number of manatees warm in its north forks 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 in the upper south fork, and once and a while they will take a swipe at a D.O.A. TerrorEyz or three-inch shrimp. Quarter to half ounce nylon or Goofy Jigs and MirrOlures will catch just about everything else in the Sebastian River.
Indian River Lagoon
Not every January day warrants hiding away in some protected nook, but even if that is the case 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 Indian River Lagoon. The immediate benefit will be the ability to sight fish for both redfish and “gator” seatrout. Sight fishing for big seatrout is about as tough as it gets in the lagoon, and it will test all your stalking and presentation skills. A tail hooked live shrimp is the most productive, and small jerkbaits and flies will take fish if you can make the perfect presentation. Sight fishing along shorelines is the best way to find slot size reds, which will generally eat a properly placed live shrimp, D.O.A. soft plastic or fly. Floating live shrimp is the hands down most consistent way to take everything and anything when the mercury drops, although finding the right place to cast the bait is still the key to success. Pompano, blues, trout, weakfish, snapper and small grouper are regular catches around the deeper water flats behind the Sebastian Inlet. Nylure jigs, goofy jigs, small diving plugs and live shrimp are all good choices.
A few nice flounder will remain around the Sebastian 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 ten miles.
For more info on fishing in the Sebastian Area check out my YouTube Channel.