IRL Coast Fishing Forecast, January 2016

January 01, 2016 by Tom Van Horn

Trip Info


As we ring in the New Year, it is once again time to reflect back on the events and accomplishments of 2015, and to count our many blessings. We are truly blessed to live in Central Florida where angling and spending time on the water are year round endeavors. I am also thankful for another great year of fishing with my clients and friends on the esteemed waters of the Indian River Lagoon estuary. Thank you all for a year filled with adventure on the water, and many great memories.

In preparation for this forecast, I first reviewed last year fishing photos, and I was taken back by the number of quality fish caught and the enjoyment expressed on the faces of the victorious anglers. My good friend and mentor Captain Rodney Smith always suggest I begin with the end in mind, and the end in this case is conserving and protecting the resource we all love and cherish, the Indian River Lagoon system.

This report is not only an expression of my thoughts and experience, but also those of many within my circle of influence, and together we can make the difference in promoting the use, and not the abuse of resources we love and respect.

Before I get started with January’s outlook, I’d like to provide a short recap of last week’s fishing. First, the American shad have arrived with reports of shad being caught. The crappie bite was also very good on Lake Monroe this past week with a number of reported limits being taken. On the down side, water conditions on the Indian River Lagoon system which are typically clear this time of year are very poor with dirty water experienced on all three lagoons. The culprit seems to be a combination of warm weather and alga blooms. These conditions have made sight fishing very challenging. There was also a fish kill in the Atlantic from Daytona to Sebastian with mostly bait fish affected. Authorities have not yet determined the cause, but my feeling are it can be attributed to alga bloom as well.

January Fishing Outlook

Winter on the east central coast of Florida cannot be defined by any specific dates, but rather by the temperature differences generated by passing cold fronts as they swing south across the state. These variations are subject to change from year to year, and they are impossible to predict. On the average, daytime temperatures usually range from the 50’s in the morning to around the 70’s by afternoon. Likewise, water temperatures average in the upper 60’s, but they can drop as low as the 50’s during extended cold periods. On warm sunny days, water temperatures can increase as much as ten degrees on the shallow flats and sandbars. All of these factors greatly affect the species targeted and the methods used.

Inlet fishing can be good in January weather permitting, with Sebastian and Ponce De Leon Inlets proving to be the most productive. There are still some reports of flounder moving through the inlets, but the bite has slowed considerably. On the inside at Sebastian Inlet, look for good numbers of pompano, ladyfish, and jacks to be located on the flats both north and south of the inlet cut and in the area of the monument. Also, January is the month when the breeder size redfish move in and feed in the mouth of the inlets during the last part of the falling tide. As the tidal currents slow down, the large redfish push up to the surface chasing baitfish. These monsters are brood stock, so please handle and release them with care.

Along the beaches, pompano will remain the staple for the majority of surf anglers, with a mixed bag of whiting, slot size black drum, Spanish mackerel, and bluefish added in. Try fishing with sand fleas (mole crabs) if you can catch them, cut fresh clams, or freshly peeled live shrimp.

Near-shore, January is the month when the tripletails become consistent on the Port Canaveral buoy line, and their numbers will increase as the month progresses. The other hot item near-shore is king mackerel holding along the 70 to 90 foot reefs of North Pelican and 8A. Also, bottom fishing on deep structure should remain consistent as long as the weather holds. Look for snapper, cobia and sea bass in depths of 80 to 140 feet, and grouper and amberjack along the 22-fathom ridge and deeper.

On the flats during the winter, redfish and sea trout will seek the warmest water they can find. Start out working the deeper edges of the flats in the morning and then move into the warmer wind protected flats around mid-day to late afternoon. An early morning start is not necessary this time of year if the weather is cold. Additionally, both redfish and sea trout love to warm themselves in the shallow water sand pockets “potholes” within the grassy flats. On colder days, focus your attention on the deeper holes using a very slow presentation. When targeting redfish and trout in these deeper holes, I prefer using shrimp imitation baits like DOA Shrimp in the clear or nightglow colors fished extremely slowly. Other species encountered in January are black drum,

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