Kayak, Canoe and Paddleboard Fishing in the East Central Region with Capt. Jim Ross

There’s a lot of anglers that use self-propelled watercraft in my region, and just a wide-open option of places to launch and fish. The Mosquito Lagoon is so shallow and has some many ponds, canals and little backwater areas that you could fish a new spot every day for a year and never fish the same place.

What we’re seeing is people going anywhere you can take a flats boat, and then some. Places like the Thousand Islands area of Cocoa Beach and all the shallow impoundments east of the Haulover Canal are seeing a lot more anglers accessing those areas with kayaks, canoes and even stand-up paddleboards.

A lot has been written and said about fishing the No Motor Zone of the Mosquito Lagoon, and that’s a great area to go because you don’t have the motorized traffic throwing wakes at you and you also have a lot less fishing pressure because there’s limited access. The farther you’re willing to paddle into the zone, the less boat traffic you’ll encounter, so you have all the fishing areas to yourself.

If you’re going to fish inside the boundaries of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, you’ll want to get the free permit and fill it out and keep it with you at all times. You can get the permit here: http://www.fws.gov/merrittisland/2014Fishing.pdf

The majority of anglers fishing in the Banana River or Mosquito Lagoon are going to be targeting spotted seatrout, redfish or tarpon. In July, you’ll want to be on the water at first light—the coolest period of the day, and fish up until 10 or 11 o’clock. Be sure to bring plenty of water, and watch for thunderstorms that can sneak up quickly and ramp up the winds making it difficult to paddle back to where you put in.

Most anglers will target these species with live shrimp or mullet, or throw lures like Bass Assassin 4 inch shads in the gold colors or Rapala Skitterwalks in the black and gold or black and silver colors. Keep in mind that the redfish tend to spend a lot of time along the shorelines and that they can tail at any time of the day, so watch for tailing fish. Spotted seatrout are going to be over the grass beds and tarpon are going to feed along the channel edges in 3 to 6 feet of water.

Along with the inshore areas, there’s been a lot more anglers launching at the beach accesses and paddling out into the ocean to fish for bonito, tarpon, redfish and cobia. Even kingfish are being caught by anglers fishing from self-propelled watercraft these days, so you’re only limitations are how far you’re willing to paddle.

You can basically launch at any of the beach accesses, but don’t just randomly pick any spot. What a lot of guys will do is drive along the beach road and stop at several access points and walk up on the boardwalk and look at the water before they launch their boat. They’re looking for bait schools—mostly pogies (Atlantic menhaden), but you’ll also see some mullet late in the month and into August. Find the bait and you find the fish, so they’ll drive along and look until they find something that looks good, and then launch and fish that area.

You can bring a castnet or a snatch hook and catch your bait right from the school and then throw it right back into the middle of them. Predatory fish have a tendency to eat the weak, and you’re bait with the hook in it is definitely the weak link in the chain.

For inshore fishing, 10 to 20 pound spin, plug or fly tackle is fine, usually leaning towards the lighter stuff which will let you make longer casts and cover more water. On the beaches, 20 to 30 pound tackle is the way to go, since the fish tend to be a bit larger and have an unlimited area to run.

The nice thing about fishing from a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard is that you can be sitting at home one minute, decide to go fishing, and all you have to do is toss your boat into the back of your Chevy truck and zip on over to the fish. It sure beats getting the boat ready, stopping for gas and ice and launching, which tends to take about an hour out of your fishing time.  

Captain Tips