So you sit there and ask yourself the following question: "What is Mosquito Lagoon sight fishing"? Well in a few short words it is exactly what it sounds like. It is the art of pursuing redfish, seatrout, IRL snook, Florida black drum, Indian River tarpon, jacks, ladyfish, flounder and other species among the shallow backcountry flats by looking for the fish, casting to them, watching the fish eat your bait and landing them using you and your guides sight to locate them. It is the apex of back country flats fishing here in central Florida. It is the pinnacle of saltwater fishing any where on the planet.
There are several different ways of fishing the flats of east central Florida for red drum or redfish. We will use redfish or red drum as an example here due to they are the main staple of the Mosquito Lagoon, north Indian River Lagoon system and all of central Florida's saltwater fishing. The Mosquito Lagoon is known as the "Redfish Capital of the World" due to the massive population of redfish that remain in the lagoon at all times of the year. Year round fishing for them not only occurs here all of the time but it also the only place you are able to catch bull redfish at any given time of the year. There is of course several other species of fish that are caught among the flats of both the Indian River and the Mosquito Lagoon as well.
There are numerous ways to catch fish here in central Florida and sight fishing is just one of them. It is the absolute most riveting way to fish the flats. A few of the different ways of catching them are the following: Randomly slinging out bait in an unfamiliar area in hopes that something will just come across by accident and eat your bait. Which could take many hours and or never happen. Guess work at its very best. You have chumming the waters. Dumping chum over board to attract fish and other species to the chum line. With this you will attract all kinds of nuisance fish as well. You then also have just blind casting. That is just blindly casting in several different directions in the hope of coming across fish to attack your bait or lure. This tactic does work and at times is the perfect solution under certain conditions but it is just that, blind casting. You will not be sure of your targets or what you will catch, if anything at all. You get several different species this way but ask yourself if it is quality or quantity you are looking for? Then of course you have sight fishing. This can be done with live, artificial bait, spin fishing and of course fly fishing.
When sight fishing you and your charter guide look for fish and your captain works hard to find them, putting you into the optimum position and giving you excellent direction as to make the precise presentation by poling the boat around and approaching them with stealth like tactics. An art form by any definition. A search and destroy method among the water. Looking up and down grass flats or mangrove shorelines and sand bars watching and reading the water around you. Searching for signs of them and then analyzing each bit of information that comes into play. Bait fish movement, birds feeding, drop offs, sand holes, past feeding patterns, weather conditions, etc.
The push pole and poling platform on a flats boat is one of the most important tools of a successful sight fishing guide. Without this tool there is no flats fishing, there is no sight fishing, there is no poling the boat around in search of redfish. At this point in time it just becomes fishing. It is impossible to sneak up on feeding redfish in 6 to18 inches of water with a trolling motor because of the noise they make, so here in Florida a poling tower above the engine and push pole is used to move the boat along. Red drum will hear the prop of a trolling motor spinning, there is no doubt what so ever with this.
All of us have been in a swimming pool and when you are underneath the water you can hear everything. You will hear a pin drop. You can hear people talking above you. The slightest sound is amplified intensely. Well the fish have better senses than us. Turkey like hearing and sight by any definition. Just like stealthily walking up onto a game animal in the woods or bird watching vs. driving your four wheeler up to them and jumping out and saying "I'm here!" Which tactic will get you within feet of them? Ask yourself which is the most stealthiest of ways to approach them under these parameters. Not every fishing guide on the Mosquito Lagoon will do this. Captain Drew Cavanaugh specializes in sight fishing and flats fishing.
Now with this being said a trolling motor is a perfect tool to use to make up large or vast distances between the fish or areas you want to fish and the current location you are at. It is a time saving tool not a stealth tool. Then when you are far enough away from the fish you are targeting finish approaching them from the poling tower by pushing yourself into position for the cast. Approaching fish at around 400 to 600 feet is normal with a push pole. A good hard working guide will always use this tactic for pursuing redfish in shallow water. The rewards of this will be outstanding and leave you with memories of a lifetime.
The other most important tool for you to have a successful day on the flats is a good pair of polarized sunglasses and a hat. These glasses do not have to cost hundreds of dollars. You can can get them in many different price ranges. Prices can vary from $10 up $400 depending on the brand and quality but they all perform the same task, blocking the glare and allowing you to see in the water easier. The key with them is lens color. The best three colors are copper, amber or vermilion. These colors are allowing you to see the fish in the water and cut down on the glare from the sun the best. They also provide protection from UV rays as well.
As you are approaching the redfish you begin your tactical approach; you go over certain things in your mind. Boat position, direction of the redfish movement, sun at your back, wind direction, which way are they swimming, surroundings and other boats near you. Are the fish feeding(tailing), what are they feeding on and so on. Do they look nervous or at ease? How many are there? As far as the tackle selection for this, it is all light tackle, sometimes live bait and sometimes artificial bait. Spinning and fly fishing tackle both are highly productive and exciting. The old saying pick your poison is used. Spinning gear is usually lined with 8 to 10 pound braided line with 15 - 20 pound leader on a 7 foot medium light St. Croix Legend Elite rods and Shimano Stradic or Sustain reels.
The fly fishing equipment here can vary from 6 to 9 weight St. Croix Legend Elite rods and Ross reels I use. Casts with fly rods are most frequently made from 15 to 60 feet on average with weight forward floating line, 12 to 20 pound bite tippet and usually two false casts or back casts. The farther away from these redfish you stay at all times is always better, whether you are fly fishing or spin fishing. The goal is to not let them be aware of your presence and this gives you more approaches at them.
Shrimp, crab and mullet fly patterns in 4 size hooks are most commonly used on the flats. When fish are sighted you will hear your guide say for example, "We have six redfish at two o'clock twenty feet away moving to the left feeding." You at that point in time make the cast to the feeding red drum and BAM! Hooked up! Again a feeling than can not be described until you witness it for yourself. You watch on several occasions redfish eating the bait, then the hook up, then the sound of the drag sounding that sweet music and there is nothing like it in this world. Sight fishing is one of the most exciting ways to fish here in Orlando Florida and it is a memorable event. I look forward to seeing you out here on the Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River for a sight fishing trip of a lifetime.
Captain Drew Cavanaugh • (352)223-7897 • [email protected]