Steady east and southeast breezes turned my focus to the lagoon system where I caught some nice fish, but it was not easy. The water level is still high, but brown tide blooms have unfortunately come back strong with the rain and heat. The upper Indian River is in worse shape in general than the Banana River, south Brevard, and the Mosquito Lagoon right now. That said, most of those areas are still not great; you can see bottom in 1-2ft for the most part with a few spots much better.
Focus on these clearer patches or where there is an abundance of bait for your best chance at catching fish. Unfortunately, these remaining clear spots keep getting smaller and smaller. It seems likely that the water will be brown everywhere by a week or two from now, so try to get out sooner rather than later.
In the areas with better water or bait pods, the topwater bite should be pretty good early and late close to the mangroves. Small Rapala skitterwalks are my go-to, and I change the trebles to inline singles because they do less harm to the fish and myself. Trust me, you do not want to have to face grab a baby tarpon with two trebles. Topwater catches have been a mix of trout, 15-25 inch redfish, 18-30 inch snook, and 20-40 inch tarpon. For trout and reds, I use 10lb braid on medium spinning gear with 20lb mono. Most the juvenile tarpon are manageable on that gear, but I still would up your leader to 30 or 40lb. It shouldn’t make a difference in low light and dirty water. Snook are pros at breaking you off in the mangroves, so I like to use a bit heavier gear to stop them from doing so.
As soon as the sun comes out, the topwater bite is over. At that point, switch over to paddletail lures like a 4′ DOA Cal. A weedless hook is a good idea if you’re near mangroves so you don’t get snagged all the time. Most predatory fish go deep in the mangroves or under docks once it heats up. These areas can be painfully big to scout around and find the fish, especially when the water is dirty. If you are fishing in clear water, things have potential to be quite impressive. When I found clear water, I was impressed at the amount of 15-25 inch redfish compared to how scarce they have been this year. I even managed to find a school of a few dozen of them last weekend! They have been picky, so have a small cut bait on hand. Be sure to make a long trailing cast, or else they will spook.
If you start catching a lot of redfish in the same area, then they stop chewing or you lose visibility due to wind or cloud cover, soak cut bait; especially on windy days. Small chunks of mullet or ladyfish placed just outside the mangroves will catch most redfish that cruise by. Be sure to use an appropriate size non-offset circle hook to reduce the chance of gut hooking. If it happens, just cut the line; they will be fine most the time. I use a 5/0 Trokar circle hook.
There are a few bull reds in a few select spots within the Mosquito Lagoon. Go big or go home is my strategy due to all the catfish. Big cut or live baits like black mullet, ladyfish, pinfish, croakers, pogies, blue crabs, or even catfish catch the attention of monster redfish. You almost certainly have to wait awhile for one fish.
These fish are often as old as me; if not older and extremely important to the lagoon system. Use gear that allows you to land them in less than 10 minutes, and remember most braids (especially Invisibraid and Cortland) break at a higher strength than labeled. The label is the knot strength, but you can do better with a good knot often. Once you get them to the boat, limit water removal to 20-30 seconds. If you need more time, you can hold the fish in the water. Also hold the fish with two hands away from the gills. Holding bull reds vertically kills them. I also suggest that you catch one or two then leave the bull reds alone. They leave or scatter when they get pressured too much.
Looking ahead, August tends to have dirty water and often mediocre fishing. The redfish bite picks up and is usually pretty steady with catches of 2-5 fish each time ranging from 15 to 30 inches. Juvenile tarpon and snook remain pretty thick. Hurricanes are the big factor for the fall, and cold fronts or the lack of make or break November and December. A hurricane causing damage or devastation is something we all dread happening. Besides concerns about property damage, this usually screws up fishing for a long time due to extremely high water, dangerous debris, and raw sewage. On the other hand, a strong north wind from a hurricane just offshore and not much rain or damage pushes a lot of the bad water south and out Sebastian Inlet. Last year was an absolute struggle in July and August, but Hurricane Dorian acted like a reset button. It immediately made the fishing turn on fire for the rest of the year, and the water cleared up a few weeks after. If we dodge damaging hurricanes and abnormal rainfall, I would expect the water to start to clear up in September and especially October. That would make the fishing turn on until it gets too cold. The fall is awesome when we don’t get hit by hurricanes. Expect a ton of trout as well as some big black drum, redfish, snook, tarpon, and the mullet run on the beach if we get lucky. This awesome fishing persists into November or December until water temperatures fall much below 65-70 degrees. Early season cold fronts can make those two months not so good if they happen though.
Here are some videos of lagoon fishing during the past two weeks. Be sure to subscribe to my channel if you haven’t already.
I, Kurt Boyken, have been fishing the inshore waters of Brevard County for over 10 years catching redfish, tarpon, snook, trout, and black drum. I run offshore and nearshore out of Port Canaveral for the many various species caught when weather permits. I enjoy sharing knowledge a; perhaps little too much. Subscribe to my YouTube at 321BigFish.