Every serious fisherman knows the best fishing is done around sunrise.
Except for those who insisted it’s best around sunset.
“If all things are equal, the only question is do you like to sing with the birds or hoot with the owls,” says Palm Coast Capt. Mike Vickers.
The angling veterans didn’t get past those first five words from Capt. Mike.
If all things are equal? All things are NEVER equal.
Ask a local expert where and how to catch fish, the only way to know he’s truly an expert is if he says, “well, it all depends…”
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The where and how offer variables upon variables, and frankly so does the whenexcept at its most basic: Early or late?
“I always prefer early morning hours over any time of day,” says DeLand Capt. Bryn Adams, who does her fishing on the St. Johns River and its lakes. “Fish are most aggressive in the early morning. I think another huge component is water temperatures. Once temperatures start to rise, fish become sluggish and less aggressive.”
Sometimes, however, you want that rise in water temp, as Vickers explains.
“In cooler months,” he says, “fish the afternoons and evenings — this gives the water time to warm and put fish in a feeding mood. As the days grow hotter, switch to mornings. Overnight, the water has time to cool, putting the fish in the mood.”
Truth is, however, ask the average angler the best time to fish, and you’ll get this answer quite often: “Whenever I can!”
For many, that might be nighttime. And that’s fine, but you have to pick your spots, and that’s when you stumble upon a fishing iron — in the brightness of daytime, many prized fish look for shade; At night, they’re attracted to light.
That’s why we hang bright lights off the end of our docks.
“Two hours after dark can be worth one hour in the daylight, especially for snook,” says Craig Patterson, who operates Donald’s Bait & Tackle in Port Orange. “Night fishing is a great way to beat daytime heat and can be very rewarding. Lights around docks attract shrimp and baitfish, and that attracts game-fish like trout, snook and reds.”
Remember the earlier mention of variables? Well, along with the clock on the wall, you also need to check the calendar when plotting your next outing.
“Time of year determines the sun angle and how much light is entering the water,” says Vickers. “In spring and summer, more light penetrates the water early due to the angle of the sun.”
Buckle up, here come more variables.
“This affects the fish differently,” Vickers continues. “Big-eyed fish, such as snook, trout, and tarpon, have large eyes and prefer low light. A high angle is like shining a spotlight in their eyes. Reds, black drum, and flounder have smaller eyes and more light helps them see bait better.”
So there you have it, something for early birds and night owls alike. Will it help? It all depends. . .
The starched wind sock just won’t relax, and it continues adding to the degree of difficulty. Capt. Jeff Patterson (Pole Dancer charter) has been looking for calm on the north side up where the Halifax meets the Tomoka River and forms the Tomoka Basin.
“The Basin has been producing seatrout around oyster bars,” he says. “There’s been some redfish around the clinker islands first thing in the morning and quite a bit of bait as well. The snook bite has been very good at the bridges in Ormond and Daytona. We’ve busted off some very big fish at the bridges recently.”
For those linking the where, when and how, it’s all the usual suspects down toward Port Orange and New Smyrna Beach.
“We’ve been seeing some good catches of flounder, mangrove snapper, snook and drum in the river,” says Craig Patterson.
The Matanzas River offers more of the same, but Capt. Vickers (Hammock Beach Bait & Tackle) says some tarpon have been leaping to announce their arrival.
“Small but getting bigger,” he says.
Also, Vickers says, “the Matanzas Inlet and bridge still has a good drum bite, with reds increasing in number and size. Also, a few sheepshead. . . and sharks.”
“It’s hard fishing, to put it mildly,” Vickers says of the windy conditions up his way. “The surf has been rough and dirty but still producing whiting, catfish, and sharks with a few pompano.”
Pompano? Down Port Orange way, Craig Patterson says he’s still getting occasional reports of hardy souls getting their daily limit (which is six, by the way, with legal keeper size being 11 inches).
Talk about your ecological links. Have you noticed the springtime arrival of Florida’s lovely white butterfly? That’s the ol’ appias drusillaaccording to the science books.
Don’t ask how, but apparently, when drusilla starts flitting from flower to flower, Mr. Mahi knows to make himself heard in the Atlantic.
“For some old-time anglers, that white butterfly is a sign to get offshore and start trolling for mahi,” says Craig Patterson.
But don’t just take his word for it.
“Mahi fishing has been good the last few days,” says Cody Moore (New Smyrna Outfitters), who sent along a picture to prove his point. But that’s not all.
“There’s been a few blue marlin and sailfish mixed in as well,” he says. “On the east side, they’ve been catching some nice yellowfin tuna.”
While the big schools of largemouth bass are fewer and farther between, the stripers and hybrids are still hanging out in the main river.
“Artificial baits and live baits like wild shiners or threadfin menhaden work great for this,” says Capt. Bryn Adams (Highland Park Fish Camp).
Mostly, though, we’re diving into panfish season in West Volusia.
“We’re seeing strong catches of bluegill and other panfish like warmouth coming in right now,” she says. “The best bait to use is live crickets but live worms are a great second. If you prefer artificial, you can’t beat a classic Beetle Spin.”
Same story just to the north in Astor, where Kerry McPherson (South Moon Fish Camp) says they’re transitioning into prime bluegill season.
Meanwhile, he says, “The wind is still hurting us but it’s not too bad. Stripers are still good, and the bass are still doing decent on wild shiners.”
Hook, Line and Clicker
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