Hit the Hot Spots* Grab the rods and head to Indian River Lagoon for tremendous seatrout action. "For numbers, February is one of our best months," says Terry Parsons of Wabasso Tackle Shop. "The deeper grass flats are where the fish will be." Parsons suggests using grub-tailed jigs over grass flats in 4 to 5 feet of water near channels or drop-offs, such as the ones that surround Long Point Park north of Sebastian Inlet. * If you're searching for sailfish, you might want to take a tip from Capt. George Labonte.
* March marks our run of spring cobia. "It only lasts about two or three weeks, but it can be excellent," says Capt. David King of Little Adam Charters in Ft. Pierce. The veteran captain watches for a shift in the wind pattern to prompt cobia movements. "When it changes from a northerly quadrant to more of a southeasterly direction, the cobia show up." King targets cobia along the 55- to 75-foot reef line and emphasizes using a frisky live bait, particularly threadfin herring.
* The silver mullet run usually generates excitement along the Indian River County coast in April. "You'll find tarpon, kingfish, blacktip and spinner sharks feeding on them not far off the beach south of Sebastian Inlet," says Satellite Beach-based guide Rodney Smith. The Sebastian River during an outgoing tide is another good place to look for tarpon and jack crevalle up to 30 pounds. When asked how to find the fish, Smith says, "They find you! Tarpon will be rolling and jacks will be blasting.
* Fort Pierce's Capt. Glenn Cameron on the Floridian knows that now is the time to target tarpon and king mackerel. "Tarpon fishing's excellent just off the beach north of Fort Pierce Inlet and in Vero Cove," he says. Cameron usually runs the beach first thing in the morning, looking for baits such as threadfin herring. After catching a well full of wigglers, he'll head out and look for rolling tarpon, often connecting with fish in the 80- to 100-pound class. "Plus last year we caught a lot of big kings off the beach too," he adds.
* Turn on the spotlight and start up the music: It's prime time for snook, and the season starts up again September 1. "The St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant outfall's probably the best place to fish for snook on opening night," says Capt. Gary Rhinehart from Professional Outfitters in Vero Beach. The "Boil" is located about a quarter-mile east of Hutchinson Island's beach, halfway between the Fort Pierce and St. Lucie inlets. Fish live croakers, pinfish or pigfish on the bottom for the best results.* Rhinehart also offers advice for Ft.
* "It's all about speed," says Capt. George LaBonte of Jupiter, referring to his fast-paced approach to catching wahoo. LaBonte drags high-speed lures - 6-ounce bullet heads with lots of Mylar - at 12 to 14 knots to trigger 'hoo bites. "I've had as many as seven fish in one day off Jupiter using this technique." He suggests working the 130- to 150-foot ledge from Juno Beach to Jupiter Inlet, but if bonito become a nuisance, move out to 180 to 220 feet or work the peaks off Jupiter in 300 feet. "Around the full moon is when they bite best," he advises.
Choose the best live baits off southeast Florida to fire up a sailfish frenzy.
* Bigeye scad: More commonly called goggle-eye. Excellent endurance and the right amount of bulk make it an ideal kite bait and productive when slow-trolled from an outrigger. They're usually caught with quill rigs in clean water, generally during the last several hours of darkness and especially right at sunrise.* Ballyhoo: Quite often the live bait of choice when fishing the Florida Keys, especially during winter and early spring when sailfish shower baits over shallow reefs. Ballyhoo can be caught in cast nets or on small hair hooks while chumming patch reefs.
Although you can troll lures or dead baits and catch sailfish, you'll usually do better using livies in regions where sailfish concentrate, such as along a reef or in Sailfish Alley off Florida's middle east coast. Two choices arise when it comes to loading your live well with bait: Catch your own or part with a few bucks. Catching live bait requires knowledge of likely places to find them.