Mosquito Creek Outdoor’s Central Florida Fishing Outlook for January 2010

By Captain Tom Van Horn

Reflecting back on 2009, recreational anglers across America have been faced with challenges threatening to limit or even shut down our fisheries. Snapper, grouper and amberjack closures in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic, new marine protection areas or no take zones on both coasts on America, and in Florida, sea grass protection areas for manatees just to name a few. The troops are mustering and the battle lines are being drawn on both sides, but who holds the middle ground?

For the past several New Years, I’ve resolved to enlighten anglers on the many attributes angling and life in the outdoors, and as a director for Anglers for Conservation I believe recreational anglers are our own worst enemies in many ways. The majority of us know the value of our angling resources and since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, recreational anglers have lead the way in conservation and resource protection, but in light of recent developments, we are looked upon as the bad guys in our quest to preserve our heritage and rights to fish.

The AFC is a nonprofit 501C3 organization with a mission to create a new generation of coastal stewards using community-based angling education, habitat restoration, habitat preservation and applied conservation science. Our primary educational tool is a program called Hook Kids on Fishing, where kids and parents alike learn basic fishing skills, encouraging them to use not abuse our priceless resources. We reached out to thousands kids across Florida last year, and in December of 2009 we introduced our newest program, Conservation Angler Certification. The certified Conservation Angler upon completion of a free three hour class will have not only learned and demonstrated the skills necessary to leave a lighter footprint while on the water, but also voluntarily taken a pledge to practice good conservation and good ethics both on and off the water. The AFC is still in its incipient stage so stay tuned for more details.

As water levels and temperatures drop, clear and shallow conditions on the inshore flats will make sight fishing the best we will see all year. 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 combined with a Woodie’s Rattle Hook or Rattle Jig. Also, January and February are key months for targeting tailing black drum on the exclusive Banana River No-Motor Zone. 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 the NMZ and to catch a few nice ones on fly.

Near-shore, look for tripletail concentrations to improve greatly along the Port Canaveral buoy line and under floating weeds and structure, and 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.

Lastly and my all-time favorite, the American shad run on the upper St. Johns River should be swinging into full gear by mid January. I have already caught my first American shad of the season on Christmas Eve, and she was a magnificent fish in the four pound range. And if this years run is anything close to what we had last year, look out for Captain Tom and Three Quarter Time when you are passing through shad alley. Also, if you enjoy a fresh fish dinner once in a while, the specked perch (crappie) bite has been and will continue to improve in all of the big lakes, rivers and creeks in Central Florida. Oh by the way, there is a free shad and crappie seminar on Saturday January 23rd from 10 a.m. until noon at Mosquito Creek Outdoor in Apopka Florida. Learn how to target and catch shad and crappie from Central Florida angling veterans Charlie McCullough, Captain Chris Myers and myself. For more details on this class and others, visit

Catch-um-up, and reward yourself by taking a kid fishing, and taking the class and pledge to be a Conservation Angler. Our numbers with help draw all concerned about our resources up on to the middle ground.

Tight lines and good fishing for generations to come and Happy New Year,

Captain Tom Van Horn
Mosquito Coast Fishing Charters and Coastal Angler Magazine Orlando
Cell (407) 416-1187