A good place to begin fishing in 2013 would be the surf or the ocean piers.
At this time of year fishing near the beach can be steady and the blue fish will usually provide lots of entertainment. Fresh cut bait or shrimp will be your best choice there but the big sheepshead around the pier pilings may be more interested in playing if you bait them with fiddler crabs.
Mid-January is also prime whale watching time so that is another good reason to fish the waves. For me, surf fishing always means going when the tide is coming in and the last hour before dead high tide is usually the best.
We must keep an eye peeled for a shrimp run for my fishing journal tells me that, in January 1988, I found the best shrimp run I have ever netted. You will know when the shrimp are running by the cluster of boats you see in the Intracoastal boat channel.
Nighttime dipping in Oak Hill should now be about as good as it gets. Drive along the Indian River after dark and watch for the lights to find the prime spots.
January is the very best time for Ponce Inlet sheepshead. While their annual school-up there is nothing like it once was, a good angler can still catch some of the largest heads this area has to offer around Ponce. To do it right bring along some shell fish chum and drop it over on the slack tide. This is mostly straight up and down fishing so you will need to pay close attention to your line for that subtle hum that comes up the mono when a sheepshead is working on your bait. If you do go, don't dismiss the boat channel. Some years back I took my boat out to the north jetty to do a little sheepsheading, but when I arrived I found it so crowded I couldn't wedge in. With that I began to drift the boat channel and found a great school and loaded the boat with the big ones. Remember it is illegal to anchor in any marked navigational channel. If you are more of a fan of boat riding, drop back a few silver spoons and troll for the blue fish that are around the inlet. For either sheepshead or blue fish you will need a stout leader.
Winter in East Volusia County always means gator trout. Once the water temp drops, the big spotted sea trout will head for the deeper holes. That makes them much easier to find. Places like Eldora and Turtle Mound in the Canaveral National Seashore are legendary winter spots for gator trout.
On the north end fish the deep water cut inside the Tomoka State Park. No boats are allowed there so you will need to park in the lot and walk in. This is live mullet fishing and at this time of year the bait can be as hard to catch as the trout. Once I spent the good part of a morning getting bait and went there with only a half dozen live finger mullet. Arriving at my spot I found three bored tourists already there. When I threw in my mullet, the big trout went nuts for them. In a half hour I had a five pound, a six pound and an eight pound trout and they had all popped my top water mullet like rifle shots. The tourists were amazed for they told me they had been there for over an hour without a bite on the shrimp they were using.
Down at Haulover Canal bait fresh, dead shrimp for the big red and black drum that live there. These fish can be in the 30 to 40 pound range so stout tackle is a must.
If big black drum is your quarry, you will want to go to the New Smyrna Yacht Club. The tide there rolls pretty strong so you will need a lot of lead to hold bottom with the half of a blue crab that you are using for bait. Each year black drum nearing one hundred pounds come up from those depths.
Over in the fresh water, January means it is time to try for shad. We have not had a strong shad run in several years but there is always hope. Give the Marina Isle Fish Camp a call over in Osteen to find out if the shad have arrived. Well there you have it. Don't let cold or inclement weather keep you in. The fish are waiting.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. E-mail questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.