Redfish New Smyrna Beach
[This area is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, surfers, beachcombers and, most importantly, fishermen.]
While beachside communities might seemingly be a dime a dozen along Florida’s expansive coastline, the truth is, the quiet, laid-back aspects of these salty settlements are getting harder and harder to come by. Among those towns claiming oceanfront real estate, few have the allure and charm of New Smyrna Beach. This area is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, surfers, beachcombers and, most importantly, fishermen. The inshore, nearshore and offshore waters provide recreational anglers a wealth of opportunities to experience a fishery that’s second to none. Whether your angling palate is attuned to the pelagic species such as tuna, dolphin, wahoo, kingfish, sailfish and blue marlin that swim in warm offshore waters, or your preferred quarry comprises the redfish and seatrout living in the skinny waters of the Indian River Lagoon system, New Smyrna Beach has it.
Year-round, outstanding fishing can be had along Florida’s coast, but come springtime, the offshore waters of New Smyrna really come to life. One of the true beauties of this fishery is the sheer variety of species that anglers have the chance to encounter in a single day. Dolphin, tuna, kingfish, wahoo, sailfish and even blue marlin could potentially crash your spread at any given moment. Tournament angler Eric Seidelman grew up fishing in the area and is no stranger to how productive these waters can be. “I think it’s one of the best fisheries around because there’s just so much structure out there. If you fish at all, you know that bait naturally holds around structure — and where there is bait, you’ll likely find predatory fish. Yeah, sure, we have to run a little bit farther than people down south to get these fish but once you’re out there, in my opinion, it is a better fishery.”
Trolling is by far the most common tactic used in bluewater fishing, and Seidelman’s recipe for success is pretty straightforward. “Basically what I do and what many other guys do is to look for upwells and downwells. If I’m seeing an area with a downwell, I automatically know that the fish will likely be down deep because that’s where the bait is going to be. Conversely, if there’s an upwell, I’ll know I need to shift gears and pull a spread closer to or on the surface because again, that’s where the bait is going to be.”
For those who really want to fish the blue water, the Gulf Stream has massive yellowfin tuna.
Nearshore, anglers can often find fast action on big kingfish, dolphin and the occasional wahoo by using downriggers, but for those who really want to fish the bluewater, there’s the Gulf Stream. Depending on the wind, how close the Stream runs to shore varies. Making the run is an adventure in itself, but once you’re out there, expect anything. Boat builders continue to push the envelope as far as they can as to what smaller boats can handle, and their owners take full advantage of it. Boats as small as 23-foot center consoles pick their days and venture into — and even to the other side of — the Gulf Stream. It’s not just for bragging rights either; this is where the big fish tend to hang.
“I think there’s just so much pressure on these big fish by the South Florida fishing community, the fish are getting smarter. What I’m finding is that we can catch plenty of fish on the west side of the Stream but generally, we’re catching more across the Stream or in the Stream. My theory is that because of the pressure the fish get from the south, as they come up, they shift toward the east,” Seidelman said.
New Smyrna offers the best of both worlds in terms of fishing. If center console boats and powerful engines aren’t your thing, the inshore waters of the Indian River Lagoon system provide a perfect backdrop to stalk redfish and trout. This system comprises Mosquito Lagoon; the Indian River, which connects to it via Haulover Canal; and the Banana River, an offshoot of the Indian River. Collectively, these three bodies of water stretch 156 miles north to south. Capt. Scott MacCalla, a Titusville, Florida, native, has been fishing all three waterways for most of his life. He says each one is subtly different. For example, Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River are influenced by the tides, but only in certain areas. On the other hand, the Banana River has no tidal flow at all. The trait they share is this: On any given day, they all produce great numbers of redfish and trout — big ones to boot. Nearly all of the redfish born in the lagoon system will remain in its waters for the rest of their lives, MacCalla explains. “There’s plenty of food for them, and typically, Florida’s weather is perfect for them year-round,” he says. “Basically, the fish in this system don’t have any reason to relocate to passes or offshore waters like redfish in other places do.”
One of the toughest obstacles to overcome when fishing this area is that it all looks fishy. But on the flip side, it’s an area that can be learned if you know what to look for. MacCalla keeps a keen eye out for places that have some sort of bottom transition, such as grass to mud or shell to sand. The type doesn’t really matter — you’re looking for any differential in bottom type. MacCalla himself prefers ledges and drop-offs: These aren’t guaranteed to hold fish all the time, but they do offer a starting point and will save you from aimlessly poling around a flat.
Once you’ve determined a spot, its now your job as an angler to know what to look for. In some cases redfish blatantly reveal their whereabouts, but more times than not, the bigger fish maintain low profiles. Wakes are a dead giveaway, but don’t be fooled by the hordes of mullet that share the same water. Mullet move erratically and don’t push a lot of water. Redfish move with purpose in straight, direct paths and push a heavy, rolling wake that is unmistakable once you’ve seen it. The inshore game isn’t always easy, but keep at it and know that it’s not really a matter of pulling up to a secret spot or fishing a magic lure. It’s about putting in a whole lot of hours on the water and knowing what to look for.
Exotic travel is all well and good, but New Smyrna is one destination that proves you don’t always have to travel far to find world-class fisheries right in your back yard. Only an hour away from the Orlando area, it’s easy to get to, and no matter what your non-angling family members enjoy, New Smyrna Beach has it.
LODGING Find a place to rest, New Smyrna Beach has an option for you.
Ocean Properties: 3506 S. Atlantic Ave. New Smyrna Beach www.oceanprops.com
Night Swan Bed & Breakfast: 512 S. Riverside Dr./Anderson St. New Smyrna Beach www.nightswan.com
Best Western New Smyrna: 1401 S. Atlantic Ave. New Smyrna Beach www.bookbestwestern.com
Riverview: 103 Flagler Ave. New Smyrna Beach www.riverviewhotel.com
**DINING **Eat well, no matter your budget.
Off the Hook Raw Bar & Grill: 747 3rd Ave. New Smyrna Beach www.offthehookrawbar.com
New Smyrna Steakhouse: 723 E. 3rd Ave. New Smyrna Beach www.newsmyrnasteakhouse.com
Clancy’s Cantina: 301 Flagler Ave. New Smyrna Beach www.clancyscantina.com
JC’s Riptides Restaurant: 2576 S. Ridgewood Ave. Edgewater www.jcriptides.com
** JC’s River Deck:** 115 Main St. Daytona Beach www.jcsriverdeck.com