January is the heart of the winter fishing season in East Central Florida. Water temperatures fall to the 60s, with cold snaps driving them as low as the upper 40s and occasional warm spells lifting them into the upper 70s. The changing temps move the fish around more than at other times of the year, but with a bit of common sense you can find excellent inshore opportunities.
Sebastian River: The Sebastian River is a sanctuary in January. It keeps manatees warm in its North Fork's depths. It also keeps a hoard of ladyfish, jacks, an occasional gator trout and even a few pompano warm on the colder days. Warm weather may get resident juvenile tarpon rolling and once in a while they will take a swipe at a D.O.A. Terror-Eyz or 3-inch shrimp. Quarter- to half-ounce jigs and MirrOlures will catch just about everything else in the Sebastian River.
Indian River Lagoon: Canals, protected bays, and sunny shorelines are excellent areas to find both trout and reds soaking up warmth and sucking up some sluggish baitfish and crustaceans. The algae bloom that has plagued the Sebastian inshore waters over the last two years seems to be dissipating this winter and a good January cold front should clear the waters.
The immediate benefit will be sightfishing for reds and possibly even gator trout. Sightfishing along shorelines is a good way to find slot-size reds, which generally suck up a live shrimp or D.O.A. soft plastic. The benefit of clean water will be the re-growth of our still nonexistent grass beds. Floating live shrimp is hands-down the most consistent way to take everything and anything when the mercury drops, although finding the right place to cast the bait is still the key to success. Pompano, blues, trout, weakfish, snapper and small grouper are regular catches around the deeper-water flats behind the Sebastian Inlet. Nylure jigs, goofy jigs, small diving plugs and live shrimp are all good choices.
Sebastian Inlet: A few nice flounder will remain around the inlet throughout the winter and bluefish, jacks, pompano, black drum, and Spanish mackerel will keep jetty anglers busy throughout the day.
Nearshore Atlantic: Pompano and whiting are the mainstay of surf fishermen along the Treasure Coast in the winter. Sand fleas, cut clams and dead shrimp on 3-hook dropper rigs are the baits of choice. Boaters looking along the beaches are apt to find blues, mackerel and some pompano on the calmer days. Goofy Jigs, spoons, and bucktail jigs worked from the beach or toward the beach from a boat are good ways to search for pompano and blues on calm days. If the weather allows for small boaters to get offshore some, kings, cobia, sailfish, and dolphin are all a possibility within 10 miles of the beach.
January is a month of opportunity in the Sebastian area, you just need to get out and fish. Gator trout, sight fishing reds, the best pompano bite of the year and giant redfish are all here, so put on the extra jacket and get out and have a day to brag about.