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Matt Badolato Fishing in Central Florida
Warm Winter Keep's The Fish Hungry
Story/Photos By Matt Badolato
Yes, I know it’s January.
Yes, it’s supposed to be cold.
Yes, the fish are biting like crazy.
No, I won’t make babies with you this afternoon.
These are the questions and I’ve been asked lately, and I’m glad. I too, am in disbelief at how amazing the weather has been for our “winter” season. As of writing this report, we’ve had two weeks of near-flat seas and calm winds which has every fisherman and fisherwoman amped up on fishamphetamine. I made that up. (I also thought I coined the term fisherwoman, but apparently my Microsoft Word program doesn’t consider it an error! Woohoo women’s rights…!)
The lack of waves—to the misfortune of the surfers—has been a blessing for the divers. Visibility on the 60-foot reefs off Sebastian has been no less than 15-20 feet the past couple of weeks and there is visibility all the way out to 120 and all the way in to the beach. We dove in 60 foot on New Year’s weekend and found 30’ of viz, giant stingrays covered in keeper cobia, and gag grouper galore. I speared my first cobia, a 25-pounder, but there were some big ones swimming out of range. Cobia up to 70 pounds have been caught this week in the same area. Bitchin! The visibility has also been great on the beach between Sebastian and Fort Pierce, but make sure you’re bundled up in a good, warm wetsuit because it’s a bit cold down there.
For you deep-sea trollers, the dolphin bite has been pretty slow this fall and winter, but the kingfish bite has just turned on. Yes, I know you’d rather be out trolling the bluewater with ballyhoo for billfish, bulls and big wahoo. But there’s a solution to your aching desire to hear a reel sing. Kingfish. The 8A and Pelican Flats reefs between Port Canaveral and Sebastian have been holding dense schools of kings. So dense, in fact, that anglers are reporting seeing clouds of fish on their fish finders while trolling over the reefs. In order to nail your limit of two kings per-person, I suggest doing it the offshore way—by trolling ballyhoo. Wire leaders are nice, and rig everything the same way. Troll a little bit slower, maybe 4-6 knots, over those 70-90 foot reefs. If you can get live mullet in the river and slow-troll them on stinger rigs, even better. You’ll quench your deep sea thirst in no time.
On the inshore scene, the redfish and trout bite has been off the hook. Or on the hook, depending on how you look at it. The trout are everywhere, but you’ve got to know where to look. Find deep water. Then find shallow water. The trout and reds are cold-blooded critters, which means they go wherever it’s warmer in the winter to regulate their body temperature. Since the shallow water warms up around mid-morning, the fish have been venturing in there to feed around lunchtime. No use getting out on the flats too early. The water is SUPER clear in the Indian and Banana River right now, especially between Melbourne Beach and Cocoa Beach. The best, I mean best way to get these fish is to sight-cast for them. If you’re wading or in a boat, just keep scanning the water until you see trout and reds. They’re really cold, so they’ll be moving really slowly. Just cast a live shrimp, jerkbait or fly right in front of them and they’ll pick it up, no doubt.
The surf has been super clear in my favorite surf-fishing spots in Satellite Beach, but the fishing has been kinda slow. I’ll bet we get a nice run of pompano after this full moon or after the next cold blast. I think they are still in the lagoon, waiting to get flushed out into the warmer seawater. The bite has been mostly whiting, sheepshead and bluefish—the usual suspects. Keep an eye out for sandfleas next time you’re at the beach. They are worth their weight in gold during the colder months and the fish just love ‘em.
Well, enough from me. Get out there and enjoy this Florida winter. It don’t get no betta.
Peace and love and crabs and shrimp,
Matt Badolato, Indialantic, Florida...
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