The New Year brings lots of fishing opportunities for inshore and near-shore anglers here in the Stuart and Jensen Beach area.
The snook have moved back up in the St. Lucie River where they spend the winter. Small and medium size snook can be caught casting lures and flies along mangrove shorelines, seawalls, and docks. Cast along the sunny side of the river in the morning. The larger snook like to sit down low this time of year. Many of them can be found hugging the bridge structures. Position your boat up-current and pitch baits against the up-current side of bridge abutments and fenders. For artificials, we use First Light Jigs, D.O.A. TerrorEyz, BaitBusters, and Giles Jigs. Cast them up current and retrieve along the bottom down with the current. Use a slow bouncing retrieve to keep your lure close to the bottom.
Drifting the flats can be lots of fun in the winter. While drifting the flats, using a “drift sock” makes your boat drift perpendicular with the wind. This gives both anglers on the bow and stern a good angle to cast down-wind while also slowing the drift. Topwater plugs can work great on the flats by pausing 3-to-5 seconds between pops. The MirroLure “Popa-Dog” catches snook, trout, and redfish while drifting the Sailfish flats and Sewall’s Point Flats. Another flats option is a popping cork rig with a live shrimp. We also use 3-inch soft plastic shad tail or jerk baits with ¼-ounce jig heads to allow for a slower retrieve.
The mackerel season is at its peak in January for fun with the kids and novice anglers who want to bend a rod. On a calm day, cruise south along the beach. You’ll see big groups of boats where the mackerel are schooled up. But you don’t have to join the crowd. Schools of mackerel can be anywhere down the beach and drawn to your boat by chumming with glass minnows. The best lures are green Clarkspoons, Gulfstream Flash Minnow Jigs, and Giles Jigs.
The pompano can be caught along the beaches, Sailfish Flats, and bridges. Surf-casting with sandfleas and Fish Bites Bait with an incoming tide is my favorite method and doesn’t require a boat!