Now is a good time to hit the reefs for catches aplenty for Space Coast fishermen. There could be a cold water upwelling on the way, as there is most Julys. That could be pushing snapper up on the reefs since many when they are caught are not showing roe.
The reefs are yielding mixed bag of catches. Kingfish and cobia are joining snapper and triggerfish in 60 to 90 feet of water. Plus, with all the sargassum seaweed up on the shore, beach fishing as been a no go.
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Closures & regulations changes in effect: Anglers are reminded about these fishery harvest closures currently underway and ones about to begin and end.
- Dolphin: New fishing regulations began May 1 for state waters. Bag limit is now 5 fish per day per angler; Vessel limit is now 30 fish per day. Captain & crew may not be included in limit.
- Grouper: Shallow water grouper season is open May 1 through Dec. 31. That includes gag grouper, red grouper, scamp and six other lesser species.
- Hogfish: Harvest of hogfish is open May 1 through Oct. 31, 2022 in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.
- Lobster: Mini-season is July 27-28. Regular season reopens Aug. 6.
- Red snapper: No harvest allowed. There is two-day fishing season which is July 7-8.
- Bass: Bass at Headwaters Lake will soon become all catch and release.
For complete fishing regulations in Florida go to MyFWC.com.
Capt. Jon Lulay of 2 Castaway Charters in Titusville said his clients are still on a solid redfish bite. Redfish in this zone can be caught two ways — sight-casting along shorelines with live freelined shrimp or soft-sided jigs that mimic shrimp since we’re at the time of year where live shrimp are hard to come by. This is a good way to find speckled trout and black drum, too. The other way is to find the bigger fish in deeper water and drop down a split blue crab to them. Then hang on. Snook are being caught here as well and tarpon are on the north end around New Smyrna Beach.
The weather forecast suggests its time to go find snapper. The two day red snapper season is July 8-9 for anglers fishing Atlantic waters, but before the rodeo kicks off, fishing for mangrove snapper, mutton snapper and lane snapper will be excellent. Use long leaders and dead sardines or grunt plugs — cut off the fins, first — to find these fish. Red snapper should be staging in slightly deeper water, 90 and beyond, but the law says anglers must have a descending device rigged and ready to use so be prepared. The shallower reefs are also giving up kingfish, cobia, triggerfish and more, according to Big Easy charters Capt. Terry Wildey in Sebastian.
The main obstacle here is seaweed washing in. Patrol the beaches to find beaches free of seaweed. There, you will find some whiting and croaker biting, but little else.
There is a good mangrove snapper bite at night here on shrimp or cut bait, and cubera snapper up to 10 pounds will bite on larger baits. Slot redfish can be caught during the outgoing tide along the north jetty, and plenty of oversized snook, but they are strictly catch and release until Sept. 1. Large redfish can be caught and released during the outgoing tides by drifting small live crabs during the tide.
Indian River Lagoon
Tarpon are being caught throughout the lagoon systems in the 15-20 pound range. Kayak anglers fishing with live bait around the mangrove islands are catching a few. Trout fishing is best in the early morning with topwater plugs. Sheepshead and black drum are being caught around the causeway structure like bridge pilings and concrete seawalls using fiddler crabs or clam strips.
Some of the most fun fishing right now is using a bow and stalking canals for exotic fish like cichlids or tilapia. There is no limit on either of these fish and bowfishing is a great way to target these catches. Catfish can be caught in moving water like the Little Econ with stinky baits. Use chicken livers to find fish in the current, just make sure the bait isn’t swirling in the current.