Sebastian Inshore: January 2020

This gator trout was one of over a dozen taken on live shrimp from an area no bigger than a pickup truck bed on a cold windy winter’s day. Photo credit: Capt. Gus Brugger.

It’s time to go try out all the new fishing tackle you got for Christmas. Hopefully you asked for some light tackle as that is what the next few months will be geared toward in the Sebastian Area. From bluefish and mackerel off the beach to trout and reds in the backcountry, a seven-foot medium action spinning rod with 10-pound braided line will be all you need.

Sebastian River

The Sebastian Rivers most prominent role in January is a thermal sanctuary. Ladyfish and jacks school up in the Sebastian River this time of year. They may not be everywhere, but when you catch one, you can usually catch a hundred more in the same area. Bucktails, Goofy Jigs, small plugs and flies are all great lures for anything in the Sebastian River in the winter. Gator trout take advantage of the deeper warmer waters of the river as well, and again if you can catch one, work the area thoroughly as there are likely more nearby. Snook are in the river, it is getting them to bite that is the issue. Baby tarpon way up the south fork will cooperate during warm spells and it is a great scenic ride on a bright winter’s day if they don’t.

Indian River Lagoon

The lagoon offers some excellent light tackle options for trout and redfish in January. Canals, protected shallow bays, and sunny shorelines are excellent areas to find both trout and reds soaking up the sun’s warmth. Techniques can vary from sight fishing with a fly rod to soaking a live shrimp on a float. Using live shrimp is not as popular as it once was and serious anglers are using more and more of the fantastic soft plastic baits and plugs now available, but this time of year is when a properly presented live shrimp can produce amazing results. I limit my live baiting to the nasty, windy days when controlling the movement of the boat is near impossible. Under these conditions you can anchor upwind of where you think there may be trout or reds laying and allow the wind and current to sweep your live shrimp on a small unweighted float back through the strike zone. If you drifted by this area, you may catch a fish before being beyond the zone or worse, over it, spooking everything away. By anchoring several casting distances away and paying line off your reel to allow a natural drift of your bait into the zone, you have the opportunity to catch a large number of fish from an amazingly small area. This is a great way for kids and less experienced anglers to catch some nice reds and trout in the lagoon on windy days that may have you thinking you should have stayed in bed.

Sebastian Inlet

A few nice flounder will remain around the inlet throughout the winter. Bluefish, jacks, pompano, redfish, black drum, and Spanish mackerel will keep jetty anglers busy throughout the day. Bouncing a Goofy Jig on and around the flats immediately behind the inlet will give anglers their best chance at a pompano or a small bonefish. Yes, I said bonefish.

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 fishing 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 catch pompano and blues on calm days.


January offers light tackle action for all skill levels. Have fun with every cast action from jacks and ladyfish or stalk the shallows for a shot at a trophy trout or tailing red.

FORECAST BY: Capt. Gus Brugger