by Capt. Tom Van Horn
It’s easy to say 2020 has been the most challenging year of my life. We have all seen or experienced the devastation COVID-19 has placed upon us, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Although it has been difficult, I feel fortunate in many ways. 2020 is the nearest I have ever been to my family and close friends. Everyone close to me has managed to stay safe, and life is good. More people are spending time in the outdoors and more people have a better understanding of the outdoors.
With this said my resolutions over the years has been and continues to be to enlighten people on the many blessings angling and life in the outdoors provide, and as a veteran guide on the IRL I believe recreational anglers are making headway in many areas. Most of us understand the value of our limited resources and the challenges they face.
Since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, recreational anglers are leading the way in conservation and resource protection. These efforts are constantly met with challenges, but the popularity and growth of our sport and its economic impact have changed the prospective of many policy makers. Therefore in 2021 I am challenging each of you who are passionate about fishing and the outdoors to reach out to someone new to the sport, and share your passion with them.
Take this challenge in the New Year and introduce someone new to fishing, join us in one of our Junior Angler Education events or simply pick up some trash at your favorite fishing hole. Your efforts are important in preserving our sport for future generations to enjoy.
Starting off with my all-time favorite fish, the American shad run on the upper St. Johns River has not yet materialized, but should be swinging into full gear by mid-January. The current water levels and water temperatures are moving in the right direction and the run should commence soon.
And when this year’s run begins, keep a sharp eye out for Captain Tom and Three Quarter Time when you are passing through shad alley.
Also, if you enjoy a fresh fish dinner occasionally, the specked perch (crappie) bite has been good and will continue to improve in all of the big lakes, rivers, and creeks in Central Florida.
Inshore in the lagoons water levels should drop producing clearer and shallower conditions on the inshore flats, making sight fishing the best we will see all year. Silver mullet and other finfish have migrated out of the area for the winter, so anglers should switch to smaller shrimp and crabs and a slower presentation.
When targeting inshore species during the colder months, I like to downsize my lures and fish with a shrimp or crab imitation baits like the DOA Shrimp and Crab. Also, January and February are key months for targeting black drum on sunny sandbars during colder weather and in deeper water channels around structure. For the past several years, the black drum populations have expanded on our lagoons, so I’m eager to see how they show up in 2021.
Near-shore, look for tripletail concentrations to improve greatly along the Port Canaveral buoy line and under floating weeds and structure, and look for cobia to move in shadowing manta rays if the surface water temperatures reach the upper sixties. If we expedience an extended period of warm weather, mid-winter thaw, look for a mid-winter cobia run to commence.
Now is also the time for surf anglers to target pompano, bluefish, weakfish, small black drum, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, and whiting off of the beaches and larger redfish and flounder around the inlets of Ponce De Leon, Port Canaveral and Sebastian.
Catch-um-up in 2021 and reward yourself this year by taking a kid fishing and pledge to be a reasonable conservation angler.
Tight lines and good fishing for generations to come and Happy New Year,
As always, if you have any questions or need more information, please contact me.
Good luck and good fishing,
Captain Tom Van Horn
Mosquito Coast Fishing Charters
407-416-1187 on the water