One of the most interesting things about Brevard County is its length and diversity. North, central, and south parts of the county have different types of communities, areas of wildlife and sometimes even climate.
These differences extend to surf fishing, where structure and species may be completely different from various beaches within the same county.
In terms of beach structure, Port Canaveral to just north of Patrick Air Force Base make up the north zone of surf fishing. The lock system west of the port lets very little water or wildlife into the Indian River, so the area is effectively isolated from any inlets. The beaches here are sandy and flat, much like northern Florida.
Fish along the northern zone are essentially ocean fish such as whiting, bluefish, flounder, small sharks, Spanish mackerel and pompano. Though these fish can be found in the Indian River, the ocean is their primary habitat, and north beaches are the best places to find them.
The area just north through just south of Patrick AFB marks the central surf zone. The beaches around Patrick AFB are full of coquina rock, a cement-like mixture created naturally over centuries from compressed shells and sealife.
The hard rocks attract shellfish and crustaceans, from barnacles to crabs, which in turn will attract the crustacean eaters such as drum and sheepshead.
Live shrimp, fiddler crabs and sand fleas will work well as baits here, but bring plenty of tackle. The nooks and crannies of coquina will grab hooks and lead, and breakoffs are common.
South of Patrick AFB is the last zone, which is heavily influenced by Sebastian Inlet. This entry point into the Indian River is the only active inlet for dozens of miles in either direction.
Sebastian Inlet exchanges a huge amount of Indian River and Atlantic Ocean water every six hours, sweeping along crabs, plankton, baitfish, nutrients, eggs, and silt. Ambush fish, such as snook, tarpon, shark and flounder wait on either side of the inlet for their meals, and may range many miles up the beach hunting stragglers.
Spawning fish also use Sebastian Inlet as a landmark, and many species of fish may seasonally rise and fall around the area.
The three surf fishing zones offer an interesting range of fishing options unique in Florida. Best of all, each beach is a short distance away, so each may be sampled without drive time taking away from fishing time!
Big gag grouper and red snapper are still being found from 20 fathoms on out. As the water warms to full summer temperatures, grouper and snapper will move deeper to stay cool. Look for ledges and drop-offs as small as two to three feet to hold fish.
Warm surf temperatures make snook anglers happy this time of year. Most snook are on the southern end of the county, but snook will travel the entire length of the county. Fish at night or early morning, using live finger mullet or rattling fish-like lures.
Trout will be hitting a wide variety of bait along the flats, especially areas with large areas of underwater grass. Be careful with trout destined for release, especially the larger fish. The internal organ structure of trout is very vulnerable, and trout get injured more easily than most other kinds of fish when flopping in boats or on docks.
Look for bluegill and shellcracker catches near lake shorelines with breadballs or small insects such as crickets. Small spinners such as beetle spins can draw strikes from these panfish as well.
Peter Krause has fished all over the Florida since his childhood, when he pulled bream out of the Everglades canals. He has fished Brevard waters for more than 10 years. Peter can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures of great catches can also be sent to him at that address.