Yep, I can tell from my email it is the time of year when the population of Volusia County swells with part timers from points north.
Many are new to the area and have arrived ready to fish. To be sure, getting out on the water during our near perfect fall weather is a strong call. Unfortunately many of the newcomers (and some of the locals) have no idea how to get started.
Each year at this time I get notes asking which rods and reels to use, what hooks, which baits to use and where to go to fish. If you are a regular reader, you know each week, as I tell my own fishing adventures, I try to include tips and methods that have either helped me succeed or resulted in failure.
Without beating you over the head with it, I talk about the tide, the sand and oyster bars, the weather and the fish movement. That last one is probably the most important and is surely the most difficult for me to try and teach in print. Just know that if you can locate fish, you can catch them.
In the paper, I can tell you exactly which rod and reel I use and what bait they hit, but I cannot locate the fish for you. That is a talent gleaned from years of experience. All I can tell you is be persistent and pay attention. You won’t become a great fisherman by going once a week or by giving up after a couple hours.
I often talk about seeing red drum moving under the water and people will then ask how I can tell them from the large mullet. That takes time to learn, but remember, if you are not sure, then it is usually a mullet. A keeper-sized red leaves a definite type of straight wake you can’t miss. Mullet will mostly go in circles.
Fishing in Volusia County is varied with inshore, offshore, surf or fresh water. Learning any one of those will keep you busy for a while. Week in and week out, Fishing With Dan targets the inshore, but on occasion I will visit all the others.
Whenever I tell a snowbird our inshore shallow waters provide the better fishing, they are stunned and somewhat left in disbelief. After all, they have watched the Florida fishing TV shows where anglers land big marlin and sailfish. You won’t catch those inshore, but you will catch some very nice reds, trout, sheep’s head, flounder, drum and snook. Of course, that means abandoning all that heavy tackle you brought down from the Great Lakes. Our best fishing is done with light tackle.
On practically every trip, I use a medium light, seven-foot rod with a number 25 (2500) reel that is spooled with 10-pound mono. Although I don’t use any leader, I would advise it for anyone beginning. That does not mean steel. Go to 25 or 30 pound braid for a leader. Small 1/0 hooks are fine for most inshore game fish. Mostly I use no weight, but if I must add lead, I only go with split shot.
If you have managed to locate hungry fish, you can usually catch them with most any bait. The bait shops are lined with fancy artificial lures and most of them will work. You will discover your favorite by having success with one of them. Whenever I get to a place where fish are readily feeding, I like to take new lures out of my box to try. If hungry fish won’t hit them, they will turn up at my wife’s next garage sale.
Red drum, snook, sea trout and flounder will hit live natural bait or fresh cut bait. Reds, black drum and sheep’s head will bite any shrimp, crab or shell fish. These are not rules, but a good guideline.
Well, that covers most of it. Get out and give it a try and keep those letters coming. I will always try to help when I can.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “I Swear the Snook Drowned,” is available for purchase for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.