Fish Brevard- Fishing the Space Coast
By Ryan Seeloff
Living in a county as long as ours that is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to our east, bordered to the west by the St. John's River, and disected by the Indian River Lagoon we are bound to have more than a few decent fishing spots.
We are the home of the redfish capital of the world (Mosquito Lagoon) as well as one of the top largemouth bass fisheries in the United States (The Stick Marsh and Farm 13). We have excellent fisheries of snapper and grouper offshore, we are pretty much the northern boundary on the East Coast of the common snook, and some of the largest speckled sea trout around can be caught in our own backyard.
Let's look at some of the more popular fishing spots throughout the Space Coast starting to our north at Mosquito Lagoon and working our way south to Sebastian Inlet.
North Brevard County
We must of course start with Mosquito Lagoon and the surrounding areas. Known worldwide as the redfish capital of the world, this vast expanse of saltwater is home to many other species as well. Trout, black drum, ladyfish, jack crevalle, and the occasional snook can be caught throughout the year.
There are many charters available that will take you through the sometimes confusing maze of waterways and right to the fish. You may even be lucky enough to sneak up on one of the massive schools of redfish that will absolutely take your breath away.
The Haulover Canal is another very good fishing spot in the northern part of the county. There are many species of fish including balck drum, sheepshead and sea trout that can be caught and you can fish from the shore or by boat. Keep an eye open for the resident group of manatees as they cruise along the canal.
The beaches along Playalinda while great for sunbathing and surfing are also a nice spot to toss out a live shrimp or piece of clam to see what comes along. Pompano will make their spring runs along the beaches and whiting are almost always present. Check the launch schedule for the Space Center because Playalinda will close for certain launches.
Central Brevard County
Port Canaveral offers Space Coast anglers the chance to head offshore although the run to deep water can be a lengthy one. Good thing you don't have to run far to get a shot at some nice fish.
Tasty tripletail roam the bouy line extending out from the port and cobia can be found roaming freely or hanging out with migrating rays during their spring and fall migrations. Kingfish occasionally roam just off the beaches while sharks and barracuda are Space Coast regulars. Speaking of kingfish, if you venture offshore and have bait trolling behind the boat they are likely to pay your spread a visit any time of the year.
We also have good numbers of dolphin and wahoo cruising beneath the swells and sailfish make their presence known during the spring migration.
Bottom fishing can be great when the bite is on with amberjack, black sea bass, grouper, snapper, and triggerfish living among the many pieces of structure off of our coast.
The beaches along central Brevard County are really fishy at times and when the bite is on you can be sure to find locals lining the beaches with their large surf rods resting in sand spikes looking to bring home dinner. Some of the better beach fishing can be found towards the south end of Patrick Air Force Base.
*Please pay attention to the spot you pick when heading to the beach. Most of the beaches along Cocoa Beach and Patrick Air Force Base are pretty decent spots for surfing and you can count on seeing some people out in the water testing the waves. Be courteous and don't throw a 2 oz weight out into their lineup (I actually saw a group of people set up for shark fishing right past the lineup in Cocoa Beach several years ago)*
Port Canaveral itself offers a wide variety of fishing opportunities for anglers fishing from boats as well as those fishing from shore. The western area near the drawbridge and the Canaveral Locks can hold some nice snook and when they are around the flounder bite can be hot. Mangrove snapper, lookdown, tarpon, trout, black drum, and redfish can all be caught in this area.
Closer to the mouth of Port Canaveral anglers can find bluefish, jack crevalle, and spanish mackerel in addition to the other species found throughout the port. There are tripletail and cobia occasionally taken within the port and even a stray kingfish can find its way this far inshore.
The Canaveral Bight just north of the port has recently been reopened after several years of being closed to all recreational fishing. This area boasts some of the best nearshore fishing in the area.
The Cocoa Beach Pier is another choice for those anglers without a boat, but you often have to deal with the crowds of people coming to the pier for the entertainment. Once you get past the crowds and out onto the fishable section of the pier the fishing can be entertaining. Do your best to keep your lines away from the brown pelicans that congregate around the pier.
The Ten Thousand Islands area in south Cocoa Beach are not only a great spot to fish they are one of the nicest places to enjoy local wildlife. Cast amongst the mangroves for a shot at a ladyfish, snook, or trout and watch for tarpon rolling in the evening.
If you find yourself needing to scratch that fishing itch and just can't get to any of these spots don't fear. There are numerous spots along the Indian and Banana Rivers where you can pull over and wet a line. Will you catch something? Probably. It just might not be that trophy you were looking for.
South Brevard County
Let's start with the beaches. From the south tip of Patrick Air Force Base all the way to Sebastian Inlet. There are many areas of submerged coquina rock from South Patrick Shores down through Indialantic and within these rocky mazes some big snook and redfish can be found. When the pompano are running you can count on some local secret spots being manned before the sun comes up.
Along the southern portion of the Space Coast there is a pretty steep dropoff right at the waterline and yes there are fish cruising there as well as along the next dip in the bottom which is only a nice cast away. These "troughs" are basically fishy superhighways and in most spots there is another one just past the first shifting sandbar.
If you are willing to take a drive then you need to head south along A1A to the Brevard/Indian River County line to what many call the Holy Grail of fishing on the Space Coast. There you will get the chance to fish at Sebastian Inlet. Just like Port Canaveral, Sebastian offers a variety of fishing opportunities.
Boaters can put in at several ramps including one just north of the Inlet and one on the south side. Anglers in boats may choose to fish in the Indian River for snook, tarpon, jacks, or trout and in the late fall and winter boats will be stacked up just west of the A1A bridge hoping to land a doormat flounder.
No boat? Don't worry. You can fish from either side of the Inlet and stand an excellent chance of catching something really nice. There have been times where I have seen little kids catching keeper lane snapper from the south side of the Inlet as far west as the playground (The playground is just past the campground and boat ramp).
There is a pair of catwalks underneath the A1A bridge that you can fish from. The tide is very strong through the Inlet and if you are trying to keep bait on the bottom you had better bring some extra weights.
Both the north and south sides of Sebastian Inlet have a jetty extending into the ocean. The north jetty is raised and made of steel. It also sticks much farther out than the southern one. When the snook, spanish mackerel, or redfish bite is on the jetty will be lined with fishermen. There are even a few locals that seek out the goliath grouper that haunt the recesses of the north jetty. They must of course be released if caught.
The south jetty while playing little brother to the larger north jetty can be just as productive. The beach side of the south jetty doesn't get as rough when the surf is up and there is a nice pocket of water that usually means happy anglers. Really big redfish sometimes move through the Inlet and the tip of the south jetty is a great spot to land one of these monsters.
In the Indian River the fishing doesn't slack off. The 192 Causeway is nice for families looking for a little outing as is Ballard Park in Melbourne.
Crane Creek, Turkey Creek, the St. Sebastian River, and the canals around Honest John's Fish Camp are all good bets in the southern reaches of the county. Redfish, sea trout, snook and tarpon are always possibilities in any of these areas.
What to fish with
Let's start with bait. If you're fishing inshore a live shrimp or finger mullet are hard to beat as so many species will nail either one. Clams, fiddler crabs and sand fleas are also great and if you can find mud minnows (just call them fish candy) then you should have success if the fish are hungry at all.
Everyone has their favorite artificial bait so we'll just stick with some basics. Softbaits that imitate baitfish or shrimp are good bets and topwaters are fine when fishing while the wind is pretty mellow. A local favorite for trout is a popping cork with a live or artificial shrimp tied on underneath. The popping of the cork gets the attention of the hungry or cranky fish and the bait itself seals the deal.
Offshore fisherman will find that thawed bait trolled behind their boats will get bites, but having live bait just can't be beat. The problem is knowing how and where to get the bait.
Putting live bait on your hook and putting it next to some structure on the ocean's bottom is a sure way to find some dinner, but you can thaw out some cigar minnows, pieces of mullet or squid and find plenty of success.
There are several lakes in northern Brevard County that hold good populations of fish and Fox Lake is easy to get to.
St John's River
There are plenty of fish to be caught along the St John's. Largemouth bass, various types of bream, shad, and crappie can be found throughout including in Lake Washington, Lake Winder, and Lake Poinsett. There are a whole bunch of alligators in these waters, so keep your eyes open and Don't Feed The Gators!
The Stick Marsh and Farm 13
Known throughout the country as big bass central both of these areas have had a bit of a downturn over the last few years, but they are still better than just about anywhere else if you are looking for a lunker.