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Fishing Report for Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island & Port Canaveral

Capt. Ron Presley
January 24, 2006
Cocoa Beach - Saltwater Fishing Report

Fishing the Docks for Cold Water Reds

With the water temperature remaining in the 50ís the fish really tend to be lethargic. The last thing they are willing to do is chase down an artificial bait screaming through the water at a rapid clip. So, if you are using plastics like the RipTide Realistic Shrimp or the RipTide Mullet, slow down that retrieve. In the cold water I prefer the Realistic Shrimp. You have to fish it slow. Once you think you have slowed it down, slow it down some more. I donít know any other way to say it. You have to slow down your retrieve in cold water.

I like the Realistic Shrimp in the cold water because you can produce a more natural presentation in the sloooooow mode. I rig them on a small 1/4 or 1/8 ounce jig head to get them down to the bottom. Use a loop knot to attach them to your leader. I usually use a 20 pound mono or fluorocarbon leader, depending on water clarity. The loop knot allows a little left-to-right wiggle in addition to the up and down motion you will produce.

Toss this rig back under a dock and let it settle to the bottom. Then, with nothing more than a lift of the rod tip, bring the lure up 8 to 10 inches and let it fall. The wide body and stabilizing legs on the Realistic Shrimp produce a slow and natural fall to the bottom. Let it rest there a while before repeating the process again. Remember, the water is cold, the fish are lethargic and the motion has to be slow. You will experience some strikes as the shrimp falls to the bottom, but some will come after the shrimp has actually settled down and is lying without motion on the river bottom. Keep reminding yourself how cold the water is and how slow you need to work the bait.

If you continue this process without success you might want to try some live shrimp. You can rig the same way, only tying on a 3/0 circle hook in place of the jighead. With the live shrimp you are not going to move the shrimp at all. Just toss it back under a dock and wait. Hopefully the fish will smell the shrimp and move to its location and decide to eat. Remember, with the circle hook you do not want to give a big bass hook-set. Just let the redfish pick up the shrimp and swim off a bit. When you feel a tight line between you and the fish just start reeling. Once your rod tip begins to bend a little it is ok to give a couple light but deliberate hook sets just to seal the deal, but not until you have solid pressure on the rod. Just donít do it too quickly.

We used this method on a recent trip with three members of the Sheriffs Department from Orlando. Ed, Brad, and Ken had been trying to schedule a trip for over a year and it seemed like something always got in the way. So, when they decide on a day in January, nothing was going to stop them. Not even the 20-25 mile and hour winds that were projected. Since it was another cold January morning we didnít leave the dock until 9:00. We headed south on the Banana River to fish some docks located on the west side hoping to be protected from a Southwest wind.

Well the wind never blew from the Southwest while we were fishing, just the South. It got windier as the day went on but we got most of our fishing in before the big blow. Ken was the first to hook up and it turned out to be a nice slot sized trout. Then Ed scored on the first of several reds, all of which measured at 16 inches. One of the reds was a multi-spot red, I forgot exactly, but I think we counted 27 spots. When this guy grows a couple of inches he will be a great spot tournament fish. Ken and Ed both caught several of the rat reds before the day was over. Brad failed to catch a red, but he added some variety to our day with catfish and sheepshead. The water temperature was 56 degrees. Much colder than I like to see but we still managed to catch some fish.

One thing you should notice right away is that when fishing with live shrimp in this manner you are automatically fishing very slowly since you are not moving the bait at all. You donít really have to think about it. Donít forget this when you are fishing with plastics, you have to keep it slow, slow, slow when the water is cold, cold, cold. And 56 degrees is cold!

The next trip was similar, with cold river water temperatures. At least we had had a couple of warmer days and the water temperature got above 60. Thatís still pretty cold and you still have to think SLOW. On this day, Jerry from Ft. Lauderdale and his friend Perry who was visiting from New York drove up for some Banana River fishing. They spent the previous day on an offshore trip in 6 to 8 foot seas so the 10 - 15 mile per hour wind and the relatively rough Banana River did not seem bad to them.

We once again fished some docks which had previously produced some cold water reds. Perry was the first to score with a healthy fat little red. Since it was his first redfish we decided to do a CPR (Catch, Photo, Release). While recording Perryís first red Jerry mentioned that he had also not caught a red. Even after living in Florida for 30 years, he does most of his fishing offshore. So, we all indicated that we hoped he also caught his first red today.

Well, as fait would have it, after missing a couple of pretty good strikes Jerry hooked up and had his first redfish on the line. The brawny red tried to go between every set of pilings between him and the boat. Jerry skillfully put some backbone on the feisty redfish turning his head each time he headed for a piling. After several minutes of finessing the red from between two docks Jerry had the fish along side the boat and guided him into the dip net. The fish topped out the slot at 26 Ĺ inches and weighed 6.5 pounds on the Boga Grip. Not bad for a guyís first redfish. Perry caught another small red and a small trout to finish out the days catch. Not a great day in numbers but a first redfish for each angler and a really nice red for Jerry.

As always, you can visit my website at www.inshorefishingadventures.com to view pictures of the fish we catch. Thatís what its all about. Good fishiní.

In The Future

On a scheduling note, if you are in the Ft. Myers area Ė the Florida Sportsman Fishing Show will be held there on February 4th and 5th. Mark your calendars and come by the Florida Guides Association Booth and say hi. Let me show you some of those RipTide lures and how I rig them.

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Capt. Ron Presley is an outdoor writer and fishing guide. He serves on the board of directors of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, is Secretary Treasurer of the Florida Guides Association and editor of their newsletter. Capt. Ron operates Inshore Fishing Adventures in the Cocoa Beach area.

Contact Info:

Inshore Fishing Adventures
516 S. Plumosa St., #19
Merritt Island, FL 32952
Phone: 321-454-7285
Alt. Phone: 321-749-1787
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