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Indian River Lagoon Slam

Here on the space coast we have two very unique bodies of water. First Mosquito lagoon which starts south of New Smyrna Beach and runs almost to the launch pads of Kennedy Space center. Slightly to the south west you will find the Indian River lagoon system which runs from Scottsmoor, which is north of Titusville down to Stuart. Between both Lagoon systems they encompass hundreds of miles down the east coast of Florida.

Mosquito Lagoon is a mostly non-tidal, hyper salinity body of water with miles of shallow water lined with mangrove islands and shorelines. Indian River Lagoon also has similar flats low tidal movement yet does not have the number of small islands and backwaters Mosquito Lagoon has.

Traveling from one to the next is via Haulover Canal. A no wake zone makes travel time approx. 20 minutes but is the only way between the two Lagoons and provide passage as Florida’s Intracoastal water way.

Depending on type of year, trip length and species targeted, we might fish just one side or a mix of both. Jason and I decided to launch at the new Bairs Cove ramp located in Haulover Canal.

Our morning started early as we had located some larger tarpon in the River and wanted to see if we could cross the King off the list early. We had a few looks and a narrow miss before I called off the tarpon fishing.

Our first stop was an area we had seen large spawning trout. They are tough to get to commit to a lure so we arrived a little early before the sun was too bright. We slowly moved across the flat scanning for shadows or the slightest movement to tip off a big trout. We found a slight depression in the flat from an old prop scar which many flats fish use these bottom contours as highways.

About 20 yds down I spot a “log”. It is usually 70/30 on whether it is a log or a trout. Don’t get caught ignoring that 30 percent. Casts are free and Foss cashed in. Great cast, two quick movements and gills flare followed by the disappearance of the jig. This fish was one of the harder fighting and more aerobatic trout we have seen in a while.

Indian River Trout

With the warm water I decided to hope out so we could keep her in the net while I snapped a few photos. It is trout like these we need to be sure to look after.

As the trout swam off safely, I noticed a pair of smaller black drum ease by the boat. We had not seen them in this area in a few weeks but worth a shot. They can be picky eaters but are fun to catch and have quite a bit of torque.

It wasn’t long until Foss had his first shot, then second and the third. Something wasn’t right. I call for a color change and we swap out the jig. I thought it was all for naught, but finally after 30min. we had a school approaching at one o’clock. Cast was on the money and we were tight instantly.

Indian River Drum

Another half hour chasing the drum around to no avail was enough for me. Next on the target list was snook. Foss loves them, I love them, it is exciting fishing, like hand to hand combat.

Our first stop did not pan out as we had water that was a little too milky, so we pressed on.

Our second stop we were rewarded with two small snook right off the bat. Then the lull. It took a couple hundred more yards and then it happened. I call out spot. Foss hits it. In a slow motion explosion of water, scales, mangrove branches and gill rattling headshake, he is on.

Only two ways these situations can go. Good or Bad. Do it enough and you can smile at either outcome. Thankfully, we won this round. Foss did everything he could with the fish and I made sure the boat was nimble and in position for any move. Team work makes the dream work.

Indian River Snook

Although we were missing a redfish for a more traditional slam, the black drum came off the bench and played his role. Book it as a slam.

Double Digit Quest

Everyone likes to set goals for themselves, it drives us on the water, in our careers and personal lives. Some do it to get better or to push out of your comfort zone.  I really love to fish, like really really, but even more I love the how and why. I truly find my happiness on the poling platform rather than the casting…  

One day while on the water almost two years back Foss and I were talking about our future trips and goals. He mentioned he wanted to catch a 10lb Bonefish and a 10lb Seatrout.  Ambitious goals to say the least but we have been close a few time.  Recently, we were talking about the chance at the 10lb. trout after a number of excellent days on the water.  For those that frequently target large trout and chase records the pre-spawn is a window of opportunity as those fish are feeding and gaining weight to prepare to spawn. 

The last two years we have been researching, following those who routinely chase big fish as well as actively searching for where these fish congregate during these prime times.  We wanted to be sure when this opportunity presented itself, we would be ready. 

The 2019/2020 fall and winter were proving to be excellent for trout fishing.  With the numbers up we were optimistic for our shot at that double digit fish.  A couple months ago, we found an area that I previously neglected due to recent poor water quality.  As winter came the Mosquito Lagoon water levels dropped, the water cooled, it began clearing and with a mild winter we started seeing seagrass appear. That was the sign I was waiting for to revisit an area I had all but given up on. 

The first time in we saw good numbers of laid up fish that were not as spooky as other areas of the lagoon. Whether it was new found habitat or lack of pressure, it was promising.  The problem was the way these fish were setup. We were forced to approach this area in a way that was pressuring them and they got uncomfortable very quick.  We put our time into finding out when they would come and go so we had to beat them to the punch and make them come to us. 

Whether in the field or in the water I am much more of a spot and stalk rather than a sit and wait. It was killing me but felt it would work. 

I forget how many times we went in, passed on shots at fish and then moved on empty handed. We made it to a point, where we felt it wasn’t going to happen. Their pattern was changing and we were unable to get a shot at the right fish, so we expanded our search. 

We were exploring new areas as the next New Moon was approaching quickly and wanted to be ready for our next good shot.  The day it happened we were actually catching snook as the weather and wind began to change. It dawned on me the conditions were setting up for that spot to be right but was worried we were a little too early.  The New Moon was 3 days out but everything else felt right and we had to make the run.  

Mosquito Lagoon Snook

As we were approaching the area, I began to see a few fish in an area we had not seen initially them. That was the tip we needed. We took the long way around and as we were approaching a fish we felt might do it, I caught a glimpse of a “log” on the shoreline about 20’ feet out to Jason’s 11 O’Clock.  The fish was laid up in very skinny water and I told Foss he had to pitch it past the fish into the roots to have a shot.  One quick underhand pitch into the roots, a soft hop into the water and we see her gills flare and the lure disappears.  We both froze in disbelief for a split second (that felt like forever) before I called out, “She ate it”. 

Not only was it a great eat, it was on such a short string. To see it go down, that close, was something special. She tore off in a tornado of mud.  Went under the skiff twice and after a quick game of cat and mouse, she was safely in the net. (Another reason I carry a net) We handled her carefully.  Weighed her as she barely eclipsed the 10lb mark on the certified Boga, shot a photo and sent her on her way. 

Mosquito Lagoon Seatrout

No, it wasn’t a record fish but we put in the work and accomplished a goal we had set almost two years prior.