It has been an unusual winter so far here in central Florida. The year began with a record breaking cold snap that lasted nearly a week. Water temperatures in the Mosquito Lagoon plunged to the 40 degree mark and stayed there for much longer than normal. As a result, some fish did not survive and thousands of green sea turtles had to be rescued. The hardest hit species seem to have been the snook and large seatrout. The snook population throughout the state took quite a beating and the Florida Wildlife Commission imposed an emergency closure to protect the remaining stocks. Many hundreds of trophy sized seatrout were also killed in our area but, unfortunately, it does not look as if they are going to impose any additional closures to help them.
On a more positive note, the weather returned to a more normal pattern during the last week. As a result, the increasing water temperature has sent the redfish flooding onto the shallow flats in search of a meal. It appears as if the adult redfish and black drum survived the cold with very little damage. They key to locating them recently has been to find the areas that are holding mullet. A general rule of thumb during the last few trips is if there were no mullet around, there were no redfish either. During several trips this weeks, we saw hundreds of redfish each day and they became more aggressive and active as the week progressed. The last several days, they have been tailing and feeding and will strike a variety of lures and flies. The DOA shrimp, as well as both the 3 and 5 inch DOA CAL caught numerous redfish this week. Productive colors included Arkansas Glow, Silver Mullet, Green Back, Watermelon Holographic, and Red/Gold Glitter. For the fly anglers, a #4 crab or shrimp imitation in black, brown has worked well recently along with a gold bendback.
There are some trophy trout still around and they will eat the same lures and flies as the redfish. I would encourage all anglers to release any trout over 20 inches in an effort to help sustain a healthy population for the future.
Despite a rocky start to the new year, it looks like we are settling into the typical winter pattern here in Mosquito Lagoon, lots of shallow water tailing redfish and black drum. When the fish were cold, you could practically touch them with the tip of your rod before they would move. Now that they have warmed up, they are on high alert when feeding in the shallow water. The best approach is to pole or wade up to them paying close attention to the shadow from both you and your rod. The calmer the wind, the farther away your bait must land from the fish to avoid spooking them.