Central Florida Fishing with Matt Badolato

Welcome back to a wonderful winter of SurfGuru fishing! One day it’s hotter than two possums fightin’ in a sack, the next day it’s colder than a witch’s tit. We can’t never win down here. But that’s okay. My momma always said variety is the spice of life. Actually, all she ever said was ‘get that damn fish outta my house!’ She would then proceed to beat me with a wire grill brush which explains my peculiar obsession with propane accessories.

 Anyways, the inshore scene is starting to happen. The lagoon system has benefitted from these intermittent warm ups and the fish are dang grateful. If you know where to look (*cough cough North Banana River and south Mosquito Lagoon cough*) there are plenty of schools of redfish and black drum milling about in the shallows, especially on these warm, dead calm “Halcyon” days we’ve been blessed with in the past weeks. Redfish act really weird this time of year. One fish may be lethargic and not want to eat a cut bait right in front of his nose, while another red may pounce on a topwater or jerkbait like it’s his last meal.

 Your best bet for reds anywhere is to use small, darty jerkbaits like the DOA C.A.L (literally stands for ‘cheap ass lure’) or a GULP! Shrimp. I like natural colors like rootbeer, new penny, black, mangrove red or dark green. The black drum are pretty picky, especially in the cold. They will almost always eat a live shrimp or a fresh-peeled dead shrimp. If you see a tailer, cast it a few feet in front of that hippo’s nose and he’ll sniff it out. No weight, just let your bait sink down naturally.

 The seatrout are showing their gratitude to the weather gods by feeding primarily on anglers’ lures. This is a strange behavior that fish biologists don’t really know anything about. But anyway, to catch the trout, focus on flats that have some kind of deep water nearby. The fish will stay in the deep water at night to stay warm, and then move up onto the flats in the morning as the sun heats up the shallows. Opposite the reds, I’ve found that the trout prefer bright-colored lures, especially on bright sunny days.

 Captain Jamie Glasner who runs Fin & Fly Charters in the Banana and Indian River Lagoons has the wintertime trout and red fishing dialed in. Last week he landed 60 trout in about an hour in the IRL! A couple were pushing 26” and six pounds and all were caught by him and a buddy on the MirroDine made by MirroLure. Check out his website for a bunch of fishing pictures as well as info on how to book a charter. (www.finandflycharters.com)

Speaking of fish biologists not knowing anything at all, the red snapper bite has been phenomenal out in 80’! I’m working on a BS degree in biology, but I promise that if I become a fisheries scientist, I will not be BS’ing my fellow fishermen! But—as much as it sucks—it can only be good if we don’t fish too hard for red snapper. They’ll come back in force for sure…I just hope the “officials” behind all those desks realize when it’s time to get back out there and have some fun bringing up those tasty rubies from the deep.

 Bottom fishing has been great in 60-80 feet as well as on the deep 160-190’ cones, humps and ledges out of Sebastian and Port Canaveral. Gag grouper season is closed (I’ll stay off the soapbox), but of course they are biting well. But there’s some big seabass and triggers on the reefs that will fill your cooler and your belly. Try dropping down cut squid for the triggers and some finger mullet or greenies for the seabass. The bigger male seabass seem to like live baits, so drop down whatever you’ve got. A spinning rod rigged with 20lb line with a sliding 3oz sinker, 2’ leader of 40lb test, and a 3-6/0 circle hook is perfect for both fish. Find any area of hard bottom and you should find some fish.

 Another thing to try on the sunny, calm days is go look for cobia. Choppy, cloudy conditions make it tough to see these surface cruising fish. Look for finning manta rays which the cobia will follow. Keep a selection of live baits handy, including pinfish, mullet, sardines and live hand-picked shrimp. Have someone up high in the boat, preferably in a crow’s nest tower, and drive at a trolling speed looking for the cobes. You can even troll a plug to at least have a bait in the water while you’re on the search. Like the movie “Caddyshack”, just yell ‘cobia!’
instead of ‘dookie’ when you see a big, brown cobia that looks like a Baby Ruth floatin’ around over your favorite reef.

 Well, until next tide. Enjoy the pics. Catch some fish, catch some waves. Eat the fish, probably shouldn’t try to eat the waves.

   Matt Badolato...
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