January is a fine month to fish out of Sebastian. It’s a time when nice snapper and grouper can be caught along the shallow “beach reefs” to the south. Those reefs along the beach and within a few miles of shore are good alternatives when the wind is westerly and the waters well offshore are no fun. Big gag grouper can move into these shallower areas so try heavier gear and a live bait on the bottom. Also, big sheepshead and triggerfish will be present, so mix it up with some lighter tackle and a #2 hook.
Sebastian Offshore Snapper, Grouper and Cobia Action
In January, the reefs in 60 and 90 feet are excellent fishing. In addition to snapper and grouper we always seem to pick up some nice cobia off the bottom. Remember, when you are grouper fishing and you realize you’ve hooked a cobia, loosen the drag immediately. The hammered down drag of grouper fishing may result in a lost cobia. The cobia will need to run a bit to prevent broken lines and pulled hooks as you fight him near the boat.
This time of year, I am always ready for tripletail. I’ll rig a light spinner with a big weighted floater and 30-pound leader with a 1/0 hook. It is always worth examining the weed patches in that 40-to-70-foot range for trips. If conditions are good, cruise along the weed lines for a bit and look hard for the camouflaged rascals. When you see one, cast over him and wind in until the bait is dangling in his face. Live shrimp is a sure thing, but fresh cut bait, squid or frozen ship will usually get it done. It’s best to keep your distance from the fish. They will get lockjaw when disturbed.
Sebastian Area Kingfish
Kingfish fishing will continue to be solid this month. Keep a live bait or a frozen sardine free-lined while bottom fishing. The kings will need a small wire leader. Target them by slow trolling and drifting over the reefs. Keep a couple baits near the surface and a couple baits at mid-depth. A simple rig is a two-to-four-ounce jig head with a live bait or frozen sardine hooked through the lips. Prepackaged “kingfish rigs” are always a good way to go. Put an egg sinker above the swivel to get your bait to the proper depth. A sure thing is to find the “kingfish fleet”, which often fishes the Pelican Flats area. Sometimes dozens of commercial guys will bunch up and have their way with the kings. Remember to respect these guys fishing area. There will be plenty of fish around the periphery.
Sebastian Area Sailfish Action
Sailfish can be hot this month when the fish move to the north. Look for them in the 180-foot range off Bethel Shoal. Trolling smaller blue/white Islanders with ballyhoo seems to work well. Keep a naked ballyhoo in the spread too. If you locate the fish, switch to drifting live baits and circle hooks on eight feet of 60-pound flour leader. Remember that regulations require keeping released sailfish in the water while unhooking and getting pictures. Please handle these great fish gently and revive them well boat side before releasing.
Best of luck out there everyone and have a great New Year!