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I was in Cocoa Beach from the 21st to the 31st. Wanted to brag some, and post some lessons learned.

I fished every day from the 22nd through the 31st, in the surf about 1/4 mile south of the Canaveral Pier. Only fished the pier twice, the fishing was just too good in the surf! Pier pretty much sucked, crowded both days. Only got pinfish from the pier. Plus beer was expensive!

Probably kept about 100 whiting. Fishing was the best I've ever seen in the surf. Also got 3 big and probably 5 other legal pompano, largest was 17 1/2".

I've normally never fished in the afternoon, the beach is too busy. But the best fishing day I had was on Sunday the 23rd. It was rainy, beach wasn't crowded, so my son and I wandered out about 2:00 PM, fished until about 6. Kept 16 whiting, the big pompano, also caught and released about 10 small jacks and probably 40 big pinfish along with 2 good-sized cats. Almost too busy to fish 2 rods. My son was doing most of the catching as I was busy baiting.

Last Wednesday, while casting, I saw hundreds and hundreds of skates in the surf, in kneehigh water or less. I had caught all the whiting I wanted to fillet that day, along with a nice pompano, so I got a heavier rod and fished a piece of shrimp right on the bottom around my feet, sightfishing for skates. They would come by singly or in schools of up to 10 at a time. I caught 3 in a short time. The beach was crowded with people, and I got to show a lot of people what a skate looked like. Everyone enjoyed the show, and they are definitely a blast to catch. All were released.

Last Thursday, the fishing was slow in the morning, just no hits. Only got 4 whiting and 2 cats. I was wondering what was going on, when a husband and wife team fishing north of me got all animated. They ended up with about a 7-pound bluefish. I got smart, got my heavy rods and cast out 2 frozen mullet. Almost immediate hits, lost both big bluefish up in the wash. Had to leave to do the tourist thing. I was figuring on fishing for whiting the next morning but the Fishing and Diving Shop was out of live shrimp that evening and wouldn't have any in until about 7:30 the next morning. So in the morning, I took the big rods and cast frozen mullet again. Missed two hits early, then hooked and landed a 28 1/2", 8 1/2-pound blue, and my girlfriend got a 15" blue. The big blue reminded me of fishing in the Chesapeake! My girlfriend jetted to Fishing and Diving about 8:00, brought back 2 dozen shrimp, so away went the big rods and we started smacking whiting. But the blues were still there, had a small whiting cut in half, then had a blue chase a hooked whiting clear up onto the beach! That reminded me of watching the steelhead beach themselves at Lake Erie! Funny to watch.

On Sunday evening, a cold front was coming through, rain and dropping temperatures. I went out about 4:30 PM, fished till almost 6:00. I got 5 BIG whiting and 2 sailcats, but as soon as the temperature started to drop the fish shut off. Monday morning, I fished for about an hour, surf was dirty, only caught a small jack, catfish, and whiting. Worst day of the trip.

I learned a few lessons too, that I'd like to pass along. The last trip south, I used frozen shrimp and didn't do real well. This year, I decided that I would only use fresh shrimp. (I also bought 4 packs of FishBites, but they ended up sitting on my kitchen counter while I was down south. Oh well, next year's coming!) I got a small bait bucket and a cheap aerator and bought 2 dozen live shrimp every day, or the night before. I will buy a better aerator next time, a couple times the aerator quit and the shrimp died. One of those times, I de-headed the shrimp and kept them in a bag in the refrigerator overnight. I didn't do nearly as well the next day, and caught some catfish, which I always got on the frozen shrimp in years past. They don't seem to hit when using fresh shrimp unless the surf is dirty. So the fresher, the better.

I was cutting the shrimp as I took them out of the bucket. I started out cutting the medium shrimp into 2 pieces, but learned that 3 pieces worked just as well. The smaller size bait didn't seem to matter. You can tell if your shrimp is fresh if they are a bugger to peel the shell off of; if it comes off easily your shrimp isn't fresh.

I took two medium-action 7' freshwater rods as well as a 9 1/2' med/heavy action rod. I also had a 9' heavy-action rod for blues and if I got a chance to plug for snook (I didn't). I used 6# Trilene on the freshwater rods, found out it's a little light for casting 2-ounce sinkers. Had a few break off on the cast. Next time I'll go to 8#. I had 10# on the 9 1/2' rod, but made my own pompano rigs with 6# droppers. I started with the 10# for droppers but got fewer hits. I lost at least one big fish every day on the light line, but also caught more whiting than everyone else around me.

The first couple days, I waded out at least to the first bar to cast, but soon learned that I didn't need to cast so far. I got most of my whiting in the wash, as well as all 3 of the big pompano. Also all the blues.

I used attractor beads, and they did seem to make a difference.

I hope some of this info is useful to people on this board. I had a blast and can't wait to get back down there next year. Tight lines to all!

Bob Jamison.
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