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Vast estuary perfect for gamefishing

By TERRY TOMALIN
Published January 17, 2007


Anglers seeking world record gamefish usually visit the Indian River Lagoon  at some point in their careers. With the most fertile sea grass beds in Florida, the lagoon  is home to spotted sea trout, red drum, tarpon and snook.

The vast estuary (156-miles long) is a major breeding ground for many commercially viable species as well, including brown shrimp and striped mullet.

The latter spawn along the edge of the Gulf Stream, but the fry come back to the grass beds where they feed on algae and detritus, providing a ready food source for the previously mentioned sportfish.

The  lagoon has long been known for its spotted sea trout. It has produced its share of 10-pound “gator” trout over the years, but the big trout have steadily decreased, thanks to the widespread destruction of the sea grass habitat.

Red drum, or redfish, nearly disappeared during the early 1980s, thanks to widespread commercial netting and a national craze for “blackened” redfish. But Florida fishery managers instituted strict conservation measures and today the species is considered a fishery management success story.

The common snook, also known as “linesiders” to anglers because of the dark, lateral line that runs along their bodies, range from Cape Canaveral to Rio de Janeiro. A species severely affected by cool water temperatures, they are found in greatest numbers at the south end of the waterway.

Tarpon, the “silver king” of gamefish, are another mainstay of the  Indian River Lagoon fishing community. These tackle-busting brutes are most common during the summer months and will hit everything from dead shad to an artificial fly.

The five inlets that link the  lagoon with the sea, also introduce a fair number of species normally associated with the open Atlantic. Anglers can catch gag grouper by trolling the edges of the channels.

Barracuda are sometimes found near the passes. And even the stray bonefish is caught from time to time in the southern region during the summer months.