|Mosquito Lagoon - The Best Fishing Near Orlando!
The ability to cast accurately is the most important factor in sight fishing the flats. Many anglers have fished their
whole lives without the need to cast to a specific spot. When it comes to flats fishing, especially sight fishing, the
ability to quickly and accurately cast to a fish can the difference between catching a few fish or catching a lot.
Mosquito Lagoon is famous for shallow water redfish. Most days anglers have shots at dozens, if not hundreds of
redfish, trout, and black drum. The golden rule of sight fishing is, "The better you cast, the more you will catch." The
fish in Mosquito Lagoon are plentiful but catching them while sight fishing requires accurate presentations.
To improve your success on the flats, practice your casting skills before you get on the water. Learning to use your
index finger to control the line and casting from a sidearm or 3/4 position will allow you to make casts that are much
more precise than an uncontrolled overhand toss. Sight casting depends on knowing exactly when to let your index
finger off the line during the cast to allow the bait or lure to follow the path you desire. Learning to factor in the
effects of wind on your cast is also a skill that needs to be practiced. Casting directly into or with the wind is
relatively easy, Casting with a wind from either side can be tricky. If you have a wind from the side and cast to where
see the fish, it will be blown off target every time. Only by experimenting in different wind conditions will you become
Make every cast a practice cast. Even when you are "blind casting" pick out a specific location and cast to it. That
makes each cast a practice cast. Some people tell me they do not fish on the shallow water flats and do not need
sight casting skills. I disagree. No matter what type of fishing you do, the ability to cast accurately will improve your
catching ratio. Even in dirty of off colored water, you may see predators chasing baitfish to the surface. If you cannot
cast to that location, you miss those chances. Many fish live around docks and mangrove trees. If you cannot get
your baits under the docks or overhanging trees, the fish may show no interest.
The ability to cast far, conventional and fly angling alike, is a distant second to the need for short distance accuracy.
Many of the fish we cast to are less than forty feet from the boat. These spooky, shallow water fish often give you
only one shot at them before they flee.
Set out some targets in you yard and spend a few minutes per week practicing your casting accuracy. I guarantee
you will see an improvement in you catching success.
See my Youtube Video on Spinning Reel Basics
Casting: Part 2
“10 o’clock, forty feet,” says the voice from the poling platform. The angler on the bow scans the water and replies,
“I got ‘em”. The tailing red is seemingly unaware of the skiff. The first cast lands at 9 o’clock, 30 feet. “Get it in quick,
try him again,” says the voice. The angler reels in only to find a clump of grass attached to the hook of his soft
plastic. After cleaning off the grass, the angler fires of a second cast. The cast goes exactly forty feet at exactly ten 0’
clock, right on the money. A huge boil of water erupts and the fish bolts across the flat, free. A little too much on the
money, the lure landed right on his back.
Casting. The most basic skill of fishing. Yet all of us have witnessed the above scenario from one, if not both
positions. Casting ability, or the lack thereof, is the biggest factor when it coming to catching fish on the flats,
especially when sight fishing. Most anglers would not think of picking up a fly rod with no previous experience or
practice yet they will grab a spinning rod and head out to the water without hesitation. If most of us think back, the
extent of our instruction on how to use a spinning outfit probably went something like this. “Flip open the bail while
pinching the line against the rod with your finger. Point the rod to the rear and sling it forward while letting go of the
line held by your finger.” While that is the basics of spinning rod operation and will result in a few fish if tossing dead
bait on the bottom, it is far from the skills required to be an accurate sight caster. Much of flats fishing is done in
water less than three feet deep to fish that are easily spooked by foreign objects attacking them from above. Having
the ability to make casts that are accurate may make the difference between just seeing fish and catching them.
There are several skills involved in casting a spinning outfit that are more easily demonstrated than written about but
I will do my best to offer a few of them here.
Have the right line - All fishing lines are not created equal and size does matter. Trying to cast a five inch soft plastic
jerk bait into the wind with 17 pound test mono is not something I would want to do on a regular basis. For flats
fishing, mono of 6-10 pound test will allow you to land most any fish you will encounter. The lighter line is more
supple and cast much more easily than that of larger diameter. Even better, try one of the braided lines. A braided
line of ten pound test commonly has the diameter of 2-3 pond mono. The thinner diameter and slick surface coating
will increase casting distance with less effort.
Learn line control – Many anglers attempt to place their lures on different targets by adjusting the force with which
they move the rod. Once the lure begins to move, these anglers can only hope they moved the rod with just the
precise amount of force was necessary to put the lure in the desired location. Although I am sure, with much
practice, one could become an accurate caster with this method, there is a much simpler way. Line control. As we all
know, the forefinger of the hand holding the reel is used to pinch the line against the rod when the bail is opened.
When the rod is about half way through the cast, the finger is moved and the line is free to fall off the spool. It’s what
you do with your finger after this that matters most. To control your line and, as a result, how far your cast will go,
you simply allow the line to lightly touch your finger around the first knuckle. The more you move your finger towards
the rod the more pressure you apply on the line and your lure will slow down. Using this method, one can cast with
full force yet stop the lure in an instant by catching the line in the fold of you first knuckle. By applying this technique,
errant casts can be stopped short and casts made in the desired direction can be caused to land exactly where you
want them. For right handed casters, if you find your cast is going far to the right of your intended target, you are
releasing your finger too early. If you are landing too far to the left, you are holding on a bit too long.
No Rainbows – Many inexperienced anglers make the infamous “rainbow cast”. The rod is held nearly straight up
and down, is brought behind them until it parallel to the ground and then thrown in an overhead arc launch the lure
high into the air. If the lure and line could be frozen just before it hits the water, the line forms a beautiful rainbow
shape. Rainbows are nice to look at but not very efficient when applied to casting. When the lure hits the water and
the excess line drops down, an excessive amount of slack is now present. This slack must be taken up onto the reel
before the lure can begin to move. If fishing in heavy grass, the lure will often settle into the weeds while the slack is
being retrieved. I find that casting from the sidearm of three quarter position will usually solve this problem.
Let the rod work for you - Making repeated cast throughout the day can be tiresome, especially for those who only
get to fish occasionally. To lessen fatigue and to avoid spooking fish in shallow water, you want to cast with the
minimum amount of movement necessary. Let the properties of the fishing rod and physics do the work for you
instead of your arms. Keep you elbows near your sides, and grip the rod with one hand at the reel seat and the
other near the bottom of the rod. Make your cast with a sharp snapping motion with the wrists. Using this technique
will keep your body movement to a minimum and will prevent your arms from tiring.
Practice, practice, practice. Casting is a skill that, like many others, must be practiced to obtain a high level of
proficiency. The time to practice your casting is at home, not on the water when the fish are all around the boat.
Improving your casting accuracy is the one thing I will guarantee will allow you to catch more fish. It is much more
important than any “secret lure” or bait. A simple white bucktail jig in the hands of a skilled caster will catch more fish
than the hottest new lure used by someone who cannot put it in from to the fish. Practicing your casting in the wind
is also something few never do. Fishing cannot always be done when the weather is perfect. Being able to judge
and compensate for the wind’s effects on a lure as it flies through the air is also something that must be practiced.
Learn to improve your casting skills and you will catch more fish – guaranteed.
Landing and Releasing Fish
Catching the fish is half the battle. When you get it up to the boat, it will either go into the cooler or be released. The
majority of fish you catch will be released. Knowing how to do this properly will ensure the survival of the fish and
result in better catching in the future. The use of circle or barbless hooks will aid in the release process
Using barbless hooks will also prevent a trip to the hospital should a hook wind up in the angler instead of the fish.
First, handle all fish to be released gently. Fish are covered in a slime that protect them from infections. Contact with
dry human hands, certain types of nets, and the decks of boats can result in the removal of this slime and the death
of the fish later on. Heaving the fish over the side and onto the bottom of the boat is a sure way to lower the fish's
chance of survival. Recently, many types of lip gripping devices have been made. Although these tools have their
use, hanging a fish by the jaw for photographing and weighing, has recently been found to cause damage to the
tendons and muscles of certain species of fish which can prevent them from eating. Although the fish may seem to
swim away healthy, if it has sustained such damage, it will slowly die. Fish are also designed to survive in an
environment where the water supports their weight. Out of water, the fished organs can shift especially when held
vertical again resulting in a slow death. If you are going to use a lip gripper tool, use it told hold the fish's head
steady while you remove the hook, preferably with the fish still in the water. If you do remove the fish from the water,
support the tail area with a wet hand and hold the fish horizontally. For non-toothy fish, a bare or gloved hand can
perform the same task as a lip gripping tool.
A hook removing tool is also useful when releasing fish. The tool will prevent you from having to handle the fish and
gets it back into the water quickly. It is especially helpful when handling fish such as bluefish, catfish, mackerel,
trout, and other toothy species. I recommend styles such as:
Some fish are worthy of a picture. If you are going to photograph your fish, keep it in the water until the camera
person is ready. Support the fish horizontally with both hands and return it to the water as soon as possible. The fish
has just fought with all its strength and cannot breathe out of the water. Imagine running up several flights of stairs
and them holding your breath. You can't do it for very long and neither can the fish.
Too many times, I have witnessed anglers mishandle fish and toss them back into the water. They act as if fish are
in a never ending supply. The amount of anglers is growing daily and fish are being caught faster than they can
reproduce. Both east and west coast Florida redfish stocks are declining. If they continue to do so, the State may be
forced to institute a partial or total closure on redfish. To avoid this, it is important that all fish to be released are
handled in a manner that will increase their chance of survival. It will also mean that the fish will be there to catch
another day. If everyone kept their bag limit of one redfish per day, during the course of a week, 25 boats with two
anglers could wipe out a school of 100 redfish. The redfish of Mosquito Lagoon breed and spend their entire lives
there. Once they are harvested, they are not likely to be replaced. Help keep our fishery strong, handle your fish
Circle Hooked DOA Shrimp
One of my favorite lures for winter sight fishing is the DOA shrimp. When it is used straight out of the package,
however, it can pose two problems. First, they tend to catch a lot of grass. Second, the fish will hit them so
aggressively that many times they inhale the bait resulting in a more difficult hook removal. I have solved this
problem by removing the standard hook and putting the bait on a circle hook. This method makes it much more
weedless and the fish are hooked in the upper jaw or corner of the mouth making catch and release much easier. I
will first start out with the bait hooked in the head area like this:
After catching multiple fish, the plastic will begin to crack and I simply switch the hook to the tail area like this:
Remember to set the hook by reeling up the slack and slowly lifting the rod tip. If you jerk back quickly, you will miss
the fish. Give this method a try next time you're using a DOA or similar soft plastic shrimp. You'll be impressed with
Fishing in a saltwater environment can be tough on your tackle. That's why care and maintenance of your tackle is
as important as selection of the proper gear. A lack of maintenance can lead to broken line, locked up drags and
gears, pitted and corroded rod guides and other problems which all equate to lost fish. I have several rods and reels
in my personal collection which are over five years old and have been used solely in salt water. By following a
regular schedule of cleaning and maintenance, they still work as good as the day they were purchased.
Reel care and maintenance
After every trip to the salt water, it is important to clean your reel. Failure to do so just one time may lead to
corrosion damage which cannot be repaired. Although many people use a light spray from the hose to wash the salt
off their reels, this can lead to water intrusion in the reels body which will break down the grease and cause rust.
Many reels do not have waterproof drag systems and spraying them with the hose is a sure way to get water into
your drag system. The method I prefer is to soak a towel and wipe off the entire exterior of the reel. I ten use a
second towel to dry the reel off. On those windy and rainy days when you're not fishing, spray a light coat of pledge
furniture polish on the exposed metal parts and buff with a clean towel to add a layer of protection. I also will remove
the spool and use a soft toothbrush to scrub away the dirt that collects in the crevices inside the rotor. Carefully
remove the roller bearing and apply a quality lubricating oil. Also apply a small amount of oil to the shaft under the
spool and to the handle pivot point. Keeping a bottle of oil in your tackle bag comes in handy to stop those squeaky
handles which sometime develop during a fishing trip.
If you are using braided line, it will not be necessary to change it more than once per year with normal use. To get
even more use from your braid, you can strip it down to the mono backing and switch it so that the ends are
reversed. For those still using mono, especially in the 6 and 8 lb class, I suggest changing it at least every few
months. A small nick will significantly weaken the line and can cause the loss of a fish. Mono is cheap and the price
of changing it is worth the heartache that comes with a big fish breaking off.
After each trip, wash the rod with fresh water using your hose. After washing, I prefer to store the rods horizontally
while drying. This prevents water and any residual salt from collecting at the point where the foot of the guide meets
the rod blank. I also apply a coat of wax to my rods from time to time. You can use pledge or ordinary car or boat
wax. The wax will help prevent fish scales and environmental contaminants from sticking. A damaged guide can
quickly part your line. A quick way to check your guides is to run and old piece of panty hose through them. The
hose will catch on any nicks.
Ever put you favorite lure in your tackle box after a day's fishing only to find the hooks rusted the next time you go to
use it? Washing your lures in fresh water can prevent this but not many people are going to take the time to do so. I
have found that adding a Blue Vapor Mister to your tackle box will prevent the hooks from rusting. You can find them
at most tackle shops.
Just a few minutes spent caring for you tackle will pay off big rewards. Your tackle will last much longer and you will
lose less fish. Good Fishing
If I ever want to see a dazed and confused expression on the faces of anglers on my boat I will ask them, “Have you
ever fished with barbless hooks?” Often times, I do not even get a reply but the look on their face says, “What are
you, crazy? Why would I want to do that?” Everybody knows that barbs are on hooks to keep the fish on, right? In
reality, barbs were placed on hooks to keep the bait from sliding off. If you are not using live bait, there is no need
for a barb on your hook. The use of barbless hooks and proper fighting techniques will result in more hookups and a
much quicker release. While more anglers are practicing CPR (catch photograph release), the majority of them are
still using barbs on their hooks. Many times, I have witnessed anglers who intend to release their catch spend
minutes with a fish lying on the gunwale while they attempt to remove the hook with a pair of pliers. Much too often,
the result of this process is a fish that is released with a badly damaged jaw or a gaping wound. The faster we can
get the fish back into the water with a minimal amount of trauma, the better its chance of survival. A hook with the
barb mashed down, will penetrate easier resulting in more hookups and makes releasing the fish a quick and easy
When I was fist introduced to the idea of fishing with a barbless hook over fifteen years ago, I had the same
questions and concerns as every angler would. It would seem that if the hook came out so easily with the fish at
boat side, then it could come out just as easily while fighting the fish. This theory is, in fact, true. The hook can fall
out before the fish is landed. There is, however, a simple way to prevent this. Keep tension on the line. From the
time you set the hook until the time you land the fish if you maintain a tight line, it is the bend of the hook preventing
the fish from escaping. Learn and practice this simple technique and you can land fish of any size without a barb on
your hook. I would also blame it on the barbless hook each time a fish got loose. Yet everyone who has done any
amount of fishing has lost one during the fight. That is just part of the sport and sometimes cannot be prevented no
matter what you do. If you decide to try this technique, do not be so quick to blame it on the hook.
Barbless hooks are particularly useful when the catch and release action is fast and furious. Often times, when other
types of fishing are slow, you can find and catch schoolie trout or ladyfish on every cast. Many times, these fish can
be released at boat side simply by giving them slack and letting the hook fall out. If this fails to work, you can usually
grab the shank of the hook and pull it out without ever having to touch the fish. The more small fish we release
unharmed, the greater the number of big fish in the future.
The second advantage that barbless hooks offer is they are much easier to remove from anglers. A hook embedded
in an angler can result in, at worst, a trip to the hospital, or a fishing trip cut short. With no barb on the hook, they
can be removed from anglers without the need for some on the water surgery. Smashing the barbs on treble hooks
is standard practice on my boat. Many times, I have seen anxious anglers snatch the plug away from a surface
striking fish only to have the lure rocket back into the boat. Several sets of barbed treble hooks in an angler’s scalp
can put a quick end to a fishing trip.
So, next time you fish, use your pliers to mash down the barb on your hook and it’s probably the last time you’ll need
them all day.
October means the fall mullet run along the coast of east central Florida. Millions of these jumping food fish head
south along our coast ahead of the cold weather. Many will pass through the inlets and travel through the lagoons.
Redfish, trout, tarpon, snook, jacks, sharks, and bluefish are just some of the game fish that will be filling up on the
mullet. To take advantage of the action, use live mullet or an artificial mullet imitation. My favorite is the DOA Bait
I like to use the shallow runner in water less than three feet deep and the deep runner for over three foot depths.
Cast the lure ahead of a cruising redfish and retrieve it on or just below the surface for some spectacular strikes. If
you are fishing live mullet, use a circle hook that is appropriate for the size of the fish you are targeting. I prefer to
hook my mullet in the top lip so that it will last for repeated casts. Some like to tail hook the bait but it will die quickly
if you have to make more than one cast because you are dragging it backward. Surface plugs also work well this
time of year.
Rigging Jerk Baits
There are tons of hooks on the market for rigging your soft plastic jerk baits. The standard worm hook is still around
as well as some which have a corkscrew device for holding the plastic. I have tried them all and my favorite is the
Mustad Power Lock Plus with a weight.
This hook has a plastic pin which is inserted into the head of the worm to hold it in place. It is quick and simple to
use. I prefer the weighted model so I can add distance to my cast and to ensure the bait gets to the bottom quickly. I
use sizes 2/0 - 5/0 with the 1/8 oz. weight.
See my video on How to rig soft plastic baits.
Trophy Trout in Winter
Winter in central Florida means big trout time. When the water temperatures dip in to the 50's and 60's, the large
trout will invade the shallow sand holes in the Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River Lagoon seeking warmth from the
daytime sun. Sight fishing for big trout is one of the most challenging adventures but it can be done. Trophy sized
seatrout in shallow water are some of the most wary fish on the flats and must be approached with extreme stealth.
Trout are ambush feeders and are almost always lying motionless near the grass. Their camouflage backs make
them difficult to spot from a distance, even to the trained eye. If you see a big trout on the move, it has probably
taken notice of your presence and will rarely eat.
I prefer to use soft plastic jerk baits such as the DOA CAL series in shades of green, gold, or white. A second
favorite of mine is a DOA shrimp. With both lures, it is imperative your cast lands well beyond the fish. Drop it within
several feet of them and they will spook. When I spot a fish lying in a sand hole. I cast past the hole and quickly
bring my bait to the edge of the grass. You can then work your lure in one of two ways. Sometimes, you can swim
the bait just under the surface over the fish and they will rise to attack it. You can also let your lure drop to the
bottom in the sand and slowly crawl it along the bottom. Working your bait in a quick erratic motion will spook more
fish than it will catch. Big trout are the fastest fish the lagoon over short distances. While they do not often provide
long drag screaming runs, trout will run quickly when hooked. If they run towards the boat, reel as fast as you can to
keep the line tight.
For the non boating angler, or those fishing from kayaks or canoes, make long casts covering sandy holes near the
shoreline with the above baits. Look for areas holding mullet and the fish will be nearby. You will also be rewarded
with a redfish and black drum in the same areas.
Fish Fighting Techniques
We all enjoy fighting fish on light tackle. Summer, however, is not the time to be fighting large fish on the ultralight
outfit if you intend on releasing them. In addition to using the appropriate tackle, the manner in which you fight the
fish can greatly affect its chance of survival. As soon as the fish finishes the initial run, it is time for you to begin
recovering line. As long as the fish is not stripping line off your reel, you should be getting some back. Even if it is
only a few inches at a time, always try to regain line. Holding the rod still will result in a prolonged stalemate.
Eventually, the fish will tire but it may be too late. If you drag is set properly, you can put an extraordinary amount of
pressure on a big fish without fear of breaking your line.
Try to keep the fight time under fifteen minutes to minimize lactic acid buildup. Reel down until your rod tip is just
above the water and then apply steady side pressure as you pull back. Always begin to turn the handle at the same
time you lower the rod to avoid wrapping the line around your tip. Pull in a direction opposite of the fish’s direction of
travel. When the fish changes its direction of travel, switch the angle of you pull.
If you are going to take a photo of your catch, have some else get the camera ready while you are fighting the fish.
Before I remove the fish from the water, I like to hold it boat side for a minute to let it regain some energy. After the
fish has had a chance to rest, lift it out of the water horizontally while supporting the head and body. A simple rule of
thumb is to keep the fish out of the water only as long as you can hold your breath. After a few quick photos, place
the fish back into the water while maintaining control of it until it is fully revived. This may take a few seconds or a
few minutes depending on the length of the fight. Once the fish is released, watch it to make sure it swims away. On
occasion, a fish appear to be revived but swim only a few feet away and roll over.
Take an extra bit of care of the fish in the hot weather months and they will survive to fight you another day.
If you are looking to add some variety to you light tackle adventures, head to the dock. The entire Indian River
Lagoon from Titusville to Stuart has docks of all sizes which can produce some great fishing for a wide variety of
species. While docks are well known for holding snook, they are also a haven for many other inshore fish. Tarpon,
flounder, snapper, grouper, trout, redfish, jacks, lookdowns, sheephead and bluefish, are just some of those you
may encounter under and around docks.
Docks provide shade and structure which attract bait fish. If you find docks holding schools of glass minnows,
pilchards, or mullet, there is a good chance there are gamefish nearby. Using soft plastic lures, when fishing docks,
will allow you to present the bait under the structure. Although it can be done, it is much more difficult to cast a live
bait under a dock without having it come off the hook. If you do manage to get a live bait under the dock, they also
have a tendency to quickly swim out from under it or to wrap your line around the pilings. Using artificial baits can be
just as effective and gives the angler much more control.
A ¼ ounce DOA shrimp is my lure of choice when fishing the docks. It can be skipped across the surface by keeping
the rod tip low and will reach into the areas where the fish are residing. Once you have skipped your bait under the
dock, allow it to fall all the way to the bottom. Many of the strikes will come on the drop. After allowing it to rest for a
couple seconds, work it back towards the boat with a series of short hops.
Since docks present the problem of barnacle encrusted pilings not found on the open flats, it is usually a good idea
to use tackle which is a bit more stout than the average flats fishing gear. I prefer a short rod with 20 pound braid
ending in a piece of 30-40 pound fluorocarbon leader. The braid allows light lures to be cast effectively but still gives
you the ability to pull big fish out from under the structure
Fish may be found anywhere from the end of the dock all the way up to the section closest to the shore. While
traveling to the next dock, pay close attention as many times fish will be found in the open water between them.
While docks provide shade and shelter for fish during the day, lighted docks provide an irresistible attractor to
baitfish. Dock fishing at night and can provide some non stop action. Capt Duber Winters, of Stuart, specializes in fly
fishing dock lights at night. His technique begins with a stealthy approach to the dock light. “Cast uptide of fish you
see in the lights,” says Capt. Winters. “Allow the fly to swing through lighted water and into the shadow lines. The
bigger fish often are not visible and are hanging in the shadows.” Winters prefers using a 6 or 7 weight flyrod with a
clear sink tip line. A short piece of 25-30 pound fluorocarbon is attached to the fly, which is usually small and
sparsely dressed to imitate small shrimp or glass minnows. “A strip strike should be used to set the hook,” Winters
Using Braided Fishing Line
The popularity of braided fishing lines has increased dramatically over the past decade. There are dozens of brands
to choose from and sizes range from 2-100 pound test. There is a color for everyone from shades of green to brown
to his-vis yellow, clear, and red. Yet, even with all these choices, there are many anglers who are still using
monofilament lines. While the initial cost of braided line is much higher, the investment will pay off in the long run.
Braided lines will last much longer and can result in more hookups and fewer lost fish.
First, let’s examine the benefits of braid. These gel spun lines, commonly made of spectra fiber, allow you to use a
small diameter line with a high breaking strength. Ten pound test braid is the size of 2-3 pound monofilament. Its
smaller diameter allows you to put much more line on your spool and aids in making long casts with light lures and
baits. Another advantage of braid is the near zero stretch properties. Typical monofilament can have between 15
and 20 percent stretch. If a fish bites 50 feet away, the angler may have to overcome 10 feet of stretch in the line to
set the hook. With braided lines, the hook set is instantaneous and solid. The lack of stretch also improves
sensitivity allowing the angler to feel the most subtle bites. Braided lines are much more resistant to abrasion and
damage from sunlight. Another advantage is their lack of memory. Unlike monofilament, braided lines are far more
resistant to line twist.
The most common complaint about braided line its ability to end up in a tangled mess anglers call “wind knots”. If
they are unable to be removed, these knots must be cut off and can quickly result in a $20 spool of line ending up in
the garbage. The number one cause of these knots is failing to close the bail by hand. Using the reel handle to trip
the bail can lead to a loop in the limp braid forming around the edge of the spool which often goes unnoticed until
the next cast. Use your hand to flip the bail closed and you will eliminate almost all of those costly knots. Reeling up
excessively slack line onto the spool can also result in knots when several wraps of the loose braid jump off the
spool at the same time. Raise you rod tip, if necessary, before beginning your retrieve to maintain tension on your
For most flats fishing applications, 10 pound braid will provide and excellent combination of strength and increased
casting ability. Lighter braids will allow for longer casts but require more attention to line management. Heavier lines
will decrease casting length and is overkill for most inshore fish. When fishing for snook around docks or targeting
large tarpon, 20 pound braid will suffice. With all braided lines, be sure to use more wraps in your knots than is
required with monofilament. Tighten knots with slow steady pressure and make certain the wraps appear neat and
Watch my video on preventing wind knots in braided line.
Catching Black Drum on the Flats
While many fish on the east central Florida flats are seeking refuge from the cold or have fled south for the winter,
there is one fish that seems to enjoy the cooler temperatures. Although they can be caught all year throughout the
Lagoon system, winter brings an influx of black drum to the flats of our region. Pogonias Cromis is a cousin of the
more popular red drum and can provide some excellent light tackle action throughout the winter and spring.
Black drum are not as glamorous as redfish in both their looks and voracity but, once hooked, fight with fierce
determination. Their dull black and gray markings make them much tougher to spot than their brightly colored
cousins and may often go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Schools of black drum are often mistaken for redfish and
leave anglers wondering why their favorite lures are being ignored.
The diet of the black drum consists primarily of crabs, mollusks, marine worms, and shrimp. Like the redfish, they are
equipped with crushers. Unlike the redfish, black drum will rarely strike at a topwater bait or other lures imitating
finfish. They will, however, take a variety of soft plastic baits such as shrimp, crabs, and tube lures. Presentation is
more important than color as the bait must be on the bottom and moving very slowly. In addition to soft plastics,
black drum can also be caught on flies as well as a variety of natural baits including shrimp, clams, and crabs. A
chunk of blue crab rarely goes ignored.
Black drum on the flats can range from 2-50 pounds and they may be encountered as singles or in schools
numbering in the hundreds. The fish can be found along the deeper edges of flats as well as in depths of less than
one foot. Like the redfish, black drum can be seen tailing when they are feeding. More often, they are found lying in
shallow sand holes or slowly cruising the flats. Like other shallow water gamefish, they will quickly vacate the flat if
spooked by an errant cast or noisy footsteps on the boat deck. They are typically much less aggressive than redfish,
especially when you are presenting an artificial bait or fly. However, repeated casts can often be made to the same
fish. If you are not getting bites, slow down your retrieve. Dragging the bait slowly across the bottom is an effective
technique. The bite is often very subtle as the drum tail on the bait and suck it in.
While you are fishing the flats of the Indian River Lagoon system this winter, keep an eye out for the other drum.
They can put both your patience and your tackle to the test.
Choosing a Fly Rod
With the holiday season quickly approaching, you may be thinking of adding a fly rod to your wish list. How do you
decide which one is right for you?
The rod you choose should be suitable for the type of fishing you do the most. Just like spinning rods, a fly rod
designed for tarpon would not be appropriate for catching panfish. Fly rods are labeled by a system known as
“weight”. This has nothing to do with how heavy the rod itself is but rather the weight of the fly line it is designed to
throw. Rods labeled 1-4 weight are normally used for small freshwater fish. Weights 5-8 are suitable for large
freshwater fish and light to medium saltwater use. Rods nine weight and up are for larger saltwater fish. A seven or
eight weight outfit is a good place to start for those looking for an inshore saltwater rod.
Capt. John Kumiski, author of numerous fly fishing books including Redfish on the Fly, recommends test driving a
rod before you buy it. “We all have different tastes and casting styles,” says Kumiski. “If you want a rod that fits you
well, try before you buy!” With this thought in mind, a gift certificate to a local fly shop can be the perfect gift to give
or receive. Most shops will let you cast a variety of rods before buying them so you can be sure feels right to you.
If you are serious about fly fishing, spend your money on a quality rod. Discount fly rods, those under $100, often
cast much less efficiently that a quality rod. This can lead to the angler becoming frustrated and giving up. A good
rod along with a few basic casting lessons, and you will be on your way to fly fishing success.
Circle Hook Top Water Plug
Top water plugs are a great way to catch fish and provide some spectacular bites, especially in the summer months.
There is often a lot of floating pieces of grass in our waters that make fishing with treble hook plugs nearly
impossible. In addition, multiple hook plugs are more damaging to the fish and dangerous for the anglers. For some
great catch and release topwater action without catching grass, remove the hooks from your standard plug and add
a single circle hook to the end. While you will not hook as many small trout with this setup, you will get great action
from large trout, big ladyfish, bluefish, and sail cats. Releasing the fish is quick and easy and many of the fish will set
the hook themselves when they strike. You can use this system with any topwater bait from chuggers to walk the do
Having the Right Glasses for Sight Fishing the Flats
The saltwater light tackle and fly fishing angler spends the majority of their time fishing in waters less than five feet
deep. For many, the 1-2 foot depths are the favored fishing grounds. Unless the water is heavily stained or dirty,
fishing the flats means you have the ability to see the fish in the water.
While the sun is a friend to the flats fisherman, it can also be your enemy if you are not properly prepared. Bright
sunny days offer the best chance to see fish below the surface. Glare, which results from sunlight being reflected
from the surface of the water, prevents the unaided human eye from seeing what is below. With the proper eyewear,
however, much of this glare can be eliminated.
All sunglasses are not created equal. A normal pair of sunglasses does little more than restrict the amount of light
entering the eye. If used while fishing, they will save you from having to squint all day but do not reduce the
reflective glare of the water’s surface. Polarized glasses have special filters which reduce glare. Any pair of polarized
glasses is better than none at all, but there can be huge differences between them when it comes to their
When choosing a pair of fishing glasses, the most important thing is to make sure they are polarized. Almost as
important is to choose the proper color lens. Gray lenses will reduce glare but also dull colors. The ability to
distinguish colors can be an important aid in spotting fish. Because I mostly target redfish, I prefer a vermilion, rose
or copper colored lens. This color enhances reds and makes the redfish easier to spot. It is also excellent for all
around flats fishing. An amber or brown tint is another good choice. Having chosen the proper colored lens, you
must then select from a wide range of price and styles. For maximum glare reduction, select a frame that offers a
wraparound style or side protection. When it comes to price, as is true with most other items, you get what you pay
for. More expensive lenses have better optical quality, are more scratch resistant, and usually come with a warranty.
While the initial investment can be costly, they can certainly pay you back by providing a better fishing experience.
Keep them in your tackle box and wear them only while fishing. When used in this manner, I have glasses that have
lasted over ten years. Broken down to their cost per year of use, it is a small price to pay for one of the most
important fishing items you can own.
Soft Plastic Baits for Redfish
Ask ten anglers to name the best way to catch redfish and you will likely get ten different answers. Which one is the
best? The one that works for you. Redfish will eat a variety of natural and artificial baits with their preference
changing with the seasons. If I could use only one bait for redfish year round, however, I would choose a soft plastic
jerk bait rigged on a weedless worm hook. Color is a matter of personal preference. I favor a DOA CAL tail in gold
flake or Arkansas Glow. Others prefer chartreuse, rootbeer, avocado, or white. All will catch fish provided you use
the proper presentation.
Soft plastic baits come in a variety of styles, colors, and sizes. Plastic shrimp, crabs, mullet, pinfish, and worm style
baits are all popular choices for redfish. I prefer to use soft plastics in sight fishing situations. Although you can use
many of them for search baits, they are subject to attack from pinfish, puffers, and a myriad of other small baitfish,
especially during the warmer months. Blind casting these lures can result in a costly day of fishing. When sight
fishing, however, there is nothing more effective.
In the winter months, I prefer to use small baits such as crabs, shrimp, or 3-4” jerkbaits. Mullet are scarce and the
reds are feeding on small crustaceans. As the water temperatures increase, larger jerkbaits and mullet imitations will
draw strikes. The key to effectively fishing the soft plastics is presentation. Even the lightest of lures landing near a
redfish will send it fleeing in the opposite direction. The same is true for a lure that is moving towards the fish. Baits
must be presented so that they appear to be escaping from the fish, not attacking them. In nature, prey escapes
from a predator fish by either fleeing or hiding in the grass. When using a soft plastic that is imitating the natural prey
of a redfish, it must do the same. With shrimp and crab imitations, cast past the fish, reel it quickly across the surface
until it is in their path of travel and let in drop to the bottom. The sight of a crab or shrimp fleeing towards the grass
will cause a feeding redfish to race over and attack the bait. If you do not see the fish reacting to your bait, give it a
slight twitch to get their attention.
Soft plastic jerkbaits can be use effectively year round. While some like to rig them on a lead head jig, I prefer to use
a worm hook with a weighted shank. Most of the redfish in my area are found in and around thick grass. This setup
gives me a totally weedless bait but still has the weight needed to make a long cast even into the wind. The weight
also helps get the lure down near the bottom quickly where the redfish are feeding.
Adding a rattle to your soft plastic baits can improve their effectiveness. The rattles can draw the attention of a fish
to a lure that may have gone unnoticed due to an errant cast or low visibility. Woodies Rattles can be inserted into
any soft plastic bait to increase your success. Tailing redfish can be some of the most difficult to catch. They are so
focused on digging their prey out of the bottom that they do not see your lure. The sound of a rattle will often draw
their attention towards your bait.
One of the most important, and often overlooked, elements of successful flats fishing is stealth. If you cannot get
close to the fish, you will never catch them no matter what bait you are using. When fish are on the shallow water
flats, they are always on alert for signs of danger. When approaching the area you have chosen to fish, do it slowly
and quietly. A push pole is best but you can use a trolling motor if you keep it on low speed and do not allow the
blades to hit the bottom. Remember that any noise on the deck of the boat will be transmitted through the water and
picked up by the lateral line of the fish. Squeaky shoes, heavy footsteps, and banging rod butts on the deck
commonly result in fish being spooked. Once the fish become aware of your approach, the chance of them eating is
The Loop Knot
I tie on nearly every lure and fly with a loop knot. There are many types of loop knots to choose from but the
quickest and easiest I have found to use is the Canoeman loop knot. Watch the video below to see how it is tied.
|Central Florida Sight Fishing Charters
Flats Fishing Tips and Techniques for Mosquito Lagoon
The Indian River, and Central Florida
Catch More Redfish, Trout, Drum, and Tarpon
|Capt Chris Myers offers light tackle and fly fishing charters in the Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River. Sight fish
the backcountry flats of east central Florida for redfish, trout, drum, tarpon, and more year round. This is the
best fishing near Orlando, Disney, Kissimmee, Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach, and New Smyrna Beach. If you
are looking for a flats fishing charter or guide, please visit my Mosquito Lagoon Fishing Guide page for more
information. Below, you will find some tips and tactics to help you catch more fish in the central Florida area.