Mosquito Creek Outdoors Indian River Lagoon Coast Fishing Report, January 11, 2010

By Captain Tom Van Horn

The Resurgence of the Shad Derby

As most of you have heard it’s freezing down in paradise which is bad news for our fishery all the way around, so instead of covering the bad new first, I would like to start this report on a happy note.

As a lifelong Central Florida angler, I’ve learned to enjoy and look forward to the American shad run each spring. American shad are a saltwater species that return to the St. Johns River every spring to spawn, and they are the closest us Floridians will ever see to the salmon runs experienced in the northeastern and northwestern coast of North America.

As a youth growing up in Seminole County, we had a season long event known as the Shad Derby where anglers could sign up and whoever caught the largest shad won the event, prizes and bragging rights for the following year. As the commercial shad harvest increased due to gill nets and other environmental pressures, shad became harder and harder catch, and the interest for the Shad Derby dwindled and eventually faded away like the once thriving fish camps like Lemon Bluff and Marina Isle that flourished along the shores of the St. Johns. Well, with the banning of gill nets and improved water quality, the shad numbers are beginning to improve and the once popular sport fishery is returning. Last year’s run was the best I have experienced in a long time, and we can only hope it continues to improve.

With that said, Mosquito Creek Outdoors, Coastal Angler Magazine Orlando and Fishing Florida Radio are reviving the Shad Derby in a new online catch-photo and release (CPR) format. We will also be conducting a free crappie and shad fishing seminar at Mosquito Creek Outdoors in Apopka on January 23rd starting at 10 am. After the class, a short meeting will be held to cover the rules and answer questions and tokens and sign-up sheet will be available.

The revival of the Saint Johns River Shad Derby

Derby Rules

Derby starts at sunrise on Sunday January 24th, and ends at sunset February 28th.

There is no entry fee; anglers must register at one of the official Derby sponsor locations and pick-up the official Derby Token, Mosquito Creek Outdoors in Apopka, Florida.

Anglers must meet all of the fishing regulations requirements of the State of Florida and possess both fresh and saltwater license if it applies.

This is a catch, photograph and release (CPR) tournament only.

Anglers are permitted to fish anywhere on the Saint Johns River system.

Angles must take fish with hook and line only.

Anglers are permitted to fish in any manner desired, paddle fishing, boat, shoreline or wade.

Anglers can fish as many times as they want within the Derby timeframe and contestant can submit as many photos as they want. One prize per contestant per category.

Three categories will be presented, fly division, conventional division, and junior division 15-years old and under.

Fish must be measured using any commercially developed and purchased measuring device, homemade measuring devices are forbidden. Official measurement will be total length from the nose to the tip of the tail, no pinched tail, longest fish wins. Two photos must be submitted, one showing size and token card from Mosquito Creek, and one photo with contestant holding fish. If caught on fly please submit photo with fly visible. Photos must be emailed or sent via internet form to Fishing Florida or with contestants name and how caught.

Angler is responsible for uploading photos to the official derby judging internet site. Photos must include the official derby token, no exceptions.

Derby judges final decision stands.

For more information on how to sign up and post your photos, visit Fishing Florida Radio’s website at

The Bad News

Now for the bad news, prolonged freezing temperatures have caused considerable damage to our sub-tropical fishery with a good number of species taken a hit. While scouting the Banana River Lagoon yesterday, I observed a wide array of species killed by the freeze including snook, sea trout, puffers, hardhead catfish, sea turtles and even gators.

When I asked my good friend Rick Roberts from the Snook Foundation his thoughts on the extent of the damage, he stated “This freeze will set back our fish population five or more years like the freeze of 1989 did. Only difference is we have even less nursery habitat now than we did back then to help replenish the stock. This has to be a teachable moment for us. Our fishery is fragile and we can't continue to give away nursery and juvenile game and forage fish habitat for development and think if we build a few hatcheries we'll be ok...that's not the way it works.”

Mother Nature always seems to take care of herself and this is a natural event, but it’s also all the more reason for recreational anglers to practice sound conservation practices while enjoying the outdoors.

As always, if you need information or have any questions, please contact me.

Captain Tom Van Horn
407-416-1187 on the water
407-366-8085 land line

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