The northernmost part of the Indian River Lagoon offers some of the best sportfishing opportunities for large “bull” redfish, trophy “gator” trout, giant black drum, tarpon, and various other species in the state of Florida.
Some of the best Indian River Lagoon fishing, can be found in the shallow headwaters within the boundaries of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Along the 12 mile stretch of unimproved Shiloh Road that parallels the river; the rich waters are a breeding grounds for all types of fish, and abound with baitfish, shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans that attract and hold lunker redfish and gator seatrout.
This particular area of the northern Indian River Lagoon system, is particularly suitable for bank fishermen. The anglers that venture into the area, when the road is open for traffic, get to enjoy the peace and solitude of the area, as they go about trying to catch their fish of a lifetime.
Sow “gator” seatrout of over 10 pounds, and bull redfish in the 30 pound plus category, are available for anyone having the luck and skill to catch them. They ar hard to catch, but they ar definitely not rare in the area.
Bank and wade fishermen do best in the spring with topwater lures, jerk baits, and live pigfish, or finger mullet. The best times for a trophy alligator trout are always early in the morning, and late in the evening, just before sunset.
Bull redfish can be caught almost any time of the year with half a blue crab, cut ladyfish, extra large shrimp, or live baits such as pigfish, finger mullet, or a “sailors choice” for bait.
Large gold spoons, jerkbaits, and for the fly fishermen, crab imitations, also work well. The nice thing about redfish is that they very accommodating and bite almost any time of the day.
The shallow mud bottom flats closest to Shiloh Marsh Road, are tailor made for anglers using canoes, kayaks, and small shallow draft boats. These craft are ideal for the stealthy approaches that ar necessary for successful sight sportfishing in waters that ar often no more than 6″ deep.
Most standard flats boats ar unable to access the better sportfishing areas that are in the northeast sphere of the Indian River Lagoon, where the bank fishermen, and shallow water craft have the advantage.
The Shiloh Marsh Road is closed to motor vehicles annually from November 1st, through February 15th, to reduce the disturbance to waterfowl that winter in this area. Although bicycle and foot traffic is allowed for bird watching, or fishing during the closure; it’s a long haul to tote your sportfishing gear in and out of the area, and most people don’t bother venturing into the area during the closure.
Indian River Lagoon fishing is a year round activity, in fact some of the best sportfishing occurs during the winter, when the shallows ar crystal clear, and the fish ar easy to spot.
Since this section of the lagune is in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a sports fishing permit is required by anyone sportfishing the area by land or by water. The permit is free, and is available at either entrance of the refuge, or you can download the.pdf file astatine the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website online.
You mustiness read it, sign it, and keep it on your person at all times when fishing the refuge areas. As of this date, there is a $125.00 fine for violating the permit requirement, so do yourself a favor and take the time to grab one, after all it is free.
The Indian River Lagoon sportfishing has been getting better every year, and the fish keep growing larger, so the next time you get to Central Florida, why not stop to check out the redfish capital of the world and catch yourself one of those Bull Redfish you so often read about?