The Indian River Lagoon has 687 species of fish, giving it the highest diversity of fish of any body of water in North America. Throughout the year some species stay year-round and others move in and out, but two thing are consistent. The scenery in the Lagoon is spectacular with dolphins, birds, turtles, and manatees; and there is always a place to get out of the wind when it is blowing.
Fall is the most exciting time of year to fish in east central Florida. The heat of summer begins to fade, but most importantly the annual mullet run takes place. At the end of September millions of mullet migrate south and bring with them a wagon train of predators such as tarpon, snook, and sharks along our beaches. Anyone can fish from the beach and hook these fish, but at least 300 yards of 30-pound test line is recommended to land them. Use live mullet or mullet imitating lures and flies for mind blowing action.
The migrating mullet will also pour into the inlets through October and into November, with snook, tarpon, and big redfish taking center stage. The tarpon will begin to leave and move south when the water gets into the low seventies. At Sebastian inlet the flounder move in from the ocean to spawn starting in October. Live baitfish or jigs are the preferred bait for these tasty flatfish. Flounder fishing peaks in the inlet between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The cooler water of fall will bring some of the best flats fishing of the year in the Indian River Lagoon as large schools of finger mullet trigger a vertical feeding frenzy. Fish the bait pods or mangrove shorelines with live mullet or lures that imitate them, for snook, redfish, trout, jacks, and a multitude of other species. Fish are feeding day and night on mullet. As always, where birds are feeding or baitfish are fleeing, you will find fish.
Fall tides will get higher, allowing easier access to backwater areas in the Lagoon. As the water cools in November, trout and some redfish will move to the deeper edges of the flats and will take live shrimp and a variety of lures. Sheepshead, black drum, and snapper can be targeted with live shrimp around any hard structure in the Lagoon or the inlets. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and jacks will also be thick in the inlets.
As the water temperature dip below 70 degrees towards December, pompano move into the Lagoon and can also be found along the beach. Shrimp and small gigs are best for catching them in open areas. Colder water requires you to retrieve slower and seek out the warmest water you can find, regardless of your target species. Fish deeper in the morning and then look for fish warming in the sun on the shallow flats later in the day. After three consecutive nights in the 40’s, the water gets very clear in the Lagoon and begins some of the best sight fishing of the year for redfish.
Finally, offshore trolling with ballyhoo can produce good catches of dolphin, wahoo, blackfin tuna, and sailfish in the fall season. The best sailfish time of the year is usually just before Christmas. December is a great time of year for grouper fishing and is the last month before the four-month closed season. Whatever type of fishing you might be interested in, the fall season in our area can be nothing short of spectacular!
Captain Mark Yanno