Living in Colorado, I was lucky and fortunate enough to begin my ice fishing season in October this year. Due to that early start I have spent a lot of time on the ice in these last 5 months. So much so that mid-winter I was craving a warm weather vacation with ample sunshine, sandy beaches, and plenty of relaxation. We wound up booking a week’s stay in Cocoa Beach, Florida with my family for the end of February. As soon as this vacation was booked I started researching nearby fishing destinations and the species present. In my suitcase I packed a 6wt fly rod, 6’6” Medium action St. Croix travel rod, some streamers, and some Dynamic Lures HD Trout jerkbaits.
After flight delays we didn’t get to Cocoa Beach until 4am and went straight to bed. After a few hours of sleep I woke up, grabbed a cup of coffee, and walked along the ocean. It wasn’t more than ten minutes into my walk when I saw what had to be the longest fishing rod I have ever seen. I stopped and watched the angler keeping a close and intensive eye on his rod tip when he got up from his chair, reeled his bait in, placed something on his cutting board, threaded that something onto his hook, walked out into the surf, and casted it out. As he placed his pole back in a tall PVC-type holder I decided to walk over and have a chat with this angler. I explained to him that I’m an avid fisherman but that I have never been exposed to surf fishing before and was very uneducated on the topic. He went on to tell me that he’s using frozen shrimp and sand fleas for bait, that he’s using a rig that includes a pyramid sinker and a circle hook, and that he’s been catching pompano and jacks. I wound up seeing a bunch of surf fisherman on the beach in the next few days and I loved seeing the customization of their fishing carts – it reminded me a lot of homemade ice fishing sleds.
We scheduled a guided inshore fishing trip a few months before arriving and were very much looking forward to it. We arrived at the Marina on the Indian River early and waited for the Captain to show up. Forty five minutes had passed as we watched dolphins in the distance, baitfish boiling on the surface, and even spotted a manatee as it passed under the dock. I brought along both my fly rod and travel spinning rod so I decided to do some fishing while we waited. I tied on a Dynamic Lures HD Trout and started mimicking an injured baitfish. It only took a few casts and I was hooked up with a small Jack Crevalle. The first thing that I noticed about this fish was how much of a fight it put up for its size. In the next fifteen minutes I was able to land another Jack Crevalle, a couple Speckled Trout, and a Ladyfish. The captain never showed up so we decided to salvage the morning and took off.
The next morning I took my 4 year old twin nephews out on a pier on the Indian River. They were pretty bummed that they couldn’t go fishing with us the day before so we made it a point to get them on some fish. We casted HD Trout and soft plastics, as well as used some live shrimp. We fished for a little over an hour and wound up with 4 species: Speckled Trout, Redfish, Ladyfish, and Pufferfish. The boys had an absolute blast and for the rest of the day they couldn’t stop talking about the Pufferfish that they caught. Quite frankly, that was the highlight of my day too – I would have never guessed that I would reel in a Pufferfish.
Inshore pier fishing was a great learning experience for me and a good introduction to some saltwater species of fish that I have never seen before. But since the guided fishing trip fell through I still had the desire to get out on the water. My girlfriend Kerri and I made the decision to rent kayaks and fish the Thousand Islands area of the Banana River. It wasn’t long before Kerri had a big Pinfish on the line and a Pelican chasing her around. It felt great to get back out on the water after a winter chalked full of ice fishing. We were accompanied by a few pods of Dolphins who swam around us multiple times throughout the day. I was also greeted by a rather large and curious Manatee who noticed my kayak from a far, turned directly towards me, and swam right underneath me. We were unable to land any Redfish (one snapped off on my fly rod and I missed the hookset on another), but we did catch a lot of Speckled Trout and some larger Pinfish.
This Florida vacation wound up being incredibly relaxing; we spent a ton of time in the pool and ocean, soaked up a lot of sun, and shared a bunch of laughs. Sprinkle in a little fishing for some new species and I couldn’t ask for much more out of a vacation! I returned home to Colorado and was greeted by snow and below freezing temps but that was okay because I had a nice new tan and my batteries were fully charged!