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Great info from another board but thought it was interesting .

Michael Mitchell
Member Palm Bay

If you ever wondered how to fish SI in the winter... 12/23/2003

I know I’m probably cursing myself with a crowded winter season at the inlet, but so what, here’s my “Winter at Sebastian Inlet : How to”.
Alright, I spend all my time fishing at night, for two reasons. Reason #1. I like to fish alone. When it’s below 30º the average fisherman doesn’t want to be fishing in the wind, spray from waves, and just the pain from being so cold. For this reason, the inlet is usually empty. I don’t mean “not crowded,” no, I mean that most nights I’ll be the only person parked in the parking lot. Especially if it’s after midnight. Reason #2. The sheer # of fish. I don’t know why, but the fish just don’t seem to feed as much during the day as they do at night. I have fished from a boat, but have never done as good so I always opt to fish from land. Another reason I fish from land is that it’s easier to concentrate on a single area and work it thoroughly.

Fishing at the mouth of the inlet in winter is one of the best times of the year to land that trophy fish. If there is a strong NorthEast, East or SouthEast wind, bait gets stacked up along the beach and the fish have a buffet. This is especially true for the ESE or SE wind. It packs threadfins, sardines, and whatever other bait is there up into the corner where the South Jetty meets the beach. “But how do I know if bait is there?” Walk the beach for a minute, if the bait is stacked up, every other wave or so, some baitfish that were either injured or just being chased will get washed up on shore. You can use these fish for bait, or just use artificials as I do(artificials don’t require you to stick your hand down in a cold livewell). If the bait isn’t being washed up on shore, don’t despair, the fish are still there, just maybe not feeding as agressively or the bait might not be there. The best way to catch these fish that I have found, is with jigs. Jigs have little to no wind resistance, and when casting into the wind, resistance is everything. I prefer a lighter jig around 3/8 to 1/2oz. Color doesn’t seem to matter very much, but sometimes the fish will be keyed in on a certain type of baitfish, so if at all possible, match the hatch. You might be helping yourself, and since the fish don’t “usually” care about the color, you won’t be hurting your chances any. Which ever lure you decide to use, the key is to work the lure slow. You’ve got to remember that the water is going to be very cold, and snook are very lethargic when temps drop down into the 30’s to 40’s. It might be difficult, and may cause you to lose more lures to the rocks, but I can almost guarantee that you’ll have more hits. Casting along the beach from the jetty is a lot “safer” than into the channel as there are much fewer rocks and often you can effectively bounce the lure along the bottom without snagging.

Alright, now fishing in the inlet channel. My lure of choice is a G&M Fishgetter jig, or similar. I prefer ¾ to 1oz in the stronger tide periods. As for color, pink/chartruse with an Exude jerkbait in Funky Chicken worked great. I don’t know if G&M’s are still in production, as my local WalMart stopped carrying them, but if you can find some, by all means snap some up for yourself if you plan to fish the inlet. 3-4 jigs is usually plenty for a nights fishing as long as you can keep them out of the rocks. The occasional snag is expected and can’t be avoided. If you start feeling rocks, raise your rod tip and reel faster until you stop bumping them, then return to your regular retrieve. Other lures such as Windcheaters also work well. I prefer the smaller size, but have never used the larger ones so I can’t give any input on them. Colors such as black/white and red/white are my favorites. There’s never any way to tell what the fish are going to want at any certain time, just use one for about an hour, and if it doesn’t produce, switch to another color.

This fall I found a new lure that has changed the way I fish the inlet. Storm’s WildEye Shad. This lure is awesome. I found through a couple months of fishing almost every night that the 4” Sardine Color bait seemed to work the best. However other colors produced well also. The only flaw I found in these lures is that the hook is too close to the body of the bait. Most hookups will be lost due to poor penetration. By bending the hook out less than ¼”, I dramatically increased my hook-up ratio. You get 6, 4” lures in a pack for about $3. The only downside is that if you hook into a fish that jumps a lot like a tarpon or ladyfish, the bait is easily torn up and rendered useless. I have a feeling that this lure is going to be awesome for winter fishing as it can be worked more slowly, and closer to the bottom without snagging near as easily as an ordinary jig.

Current breaks are very important when looking for places to fish. If you see an area that has a constant upwelling, it is because there is a protruding rock there that is causing water to be forced upwards. On the down current side of this upwelling there will be a break in current, and fish will find shelter here. It’s also a good ambush point for them. Cast up current of said upwelling and bring the lure back through, working the lure more slowly as it moves towards the area where you think the current break will be. More times than not this will result in a hookup.

As for tackle, I always use 10lb test on a Stradic 4000 and have only lost 2 fish because I didn’t think I had enough line and had to break them off so as to not lose all of my Power Pro. As for a rod, I like one with enough back bone to set the hook, but also a sensitive tip. Not that you need sensitivity or anything, it just looks cool when your rod is bent all the way to the reel seat. It’s all personal preference, as I see most people there with 20-30lb test on giant reels and broomstick rods, but hey, I like to have fun with the fish, isn’t that what it’s all about?

There are many other types of fishing that can be done in the winter, such as jigging for flounder, drifting for big reds, and also fishing for tarpon. Here's a short review for each.

Jigging for flounder is a relaxing way to spend some time on the water with friends or family. A ¼ to 3/8oz jighead with a strip of mullet or squid is one of the most common ways to jig for flounder. If you prefer to use artificials, a tout or paddle tail grub are effective, but usually acount for more fish on the small side. For the larger, Southern flounder, livebait such as mullet or greenies in the 3" range are a good bet. They can either be worked on a jighead, or a sliding sinker rig with about a foot of 20lb flouro leader. Berkely Vanish works good for this. Hooks need to be relatively small, I use a 2/0 or smaller Owner live bait hook.

Drifting for reds is fun, but not as fast paced as some other ways to fish unless there is a large school inhabiting the mouth of the inlet as there sometimes is. Finger mullet, pinfish, and croakers are all good baits. I prefer baits in the 4-5" range for reds, but have had results on larger mullet also, up to the 9-10" size for tarpon. The hook size should be relative to the size of the bait, I would use a 2/0 hook for 3-4" baits, 3-4/0 hooks are good for 5-6" mullet and larger pinfish, while 6/0 livebait hooks are good for your large mullet when targeting tarpon. As for leader, I like 40lb when fishing for reds and snook, but for tarpon I would move up to 80.

If there is any advice that I can give the average angler, especially if you haven’t fished Sebastian inlet much, or at all, is give the other anglers their space. You have no idea how many times I’ve left just because of inconsiderate anglers who literally try to stand on the same rock as I am and fish next to me. If it’s not a crowded night, give the other person ATLEAST 30’, I prefer to go with 70’ or more, as when bringing the lure back up current, it can be casted over and snagged by another angler, this ensues “Rock Rage” and can sometimes result in heated arguments especially if the other person was hooked up and it caused them to lose the fish. It’s no fun when people are being inconsiderate, but don’t be inconsiderate to them just for revenge. If you were there first, politely ask them to move farther down current. If they ignore you, then you can yell at them .

Yes, fishing Sebastian inlet can be aggrivating, but if you know where to fish, and when to fish it, fishing here can be very rewarding. As with anything, put in your time, and soon you’ll be catching fish left and right. Follow this guide and you'll be on your way to that trophy fish you've always wanted to catch.

Thanks Mike for your knowledge about the Inlet
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