Monday, January 18, 2010

Indian River Lagoon Devastated By Cold

Mosquito Creek Outdoors Indian River Lagoon Coast Fishing January 16, 2010

By Captain Tom Van Horn

Up Coming Seminars and Events

On January 23, 2010, 10 am Captains Chris Myers, Tom Van Horn and Charlie McCullough, Editor of Coastal Angler Magazine Orlando will be teaching anglers how to target and catch crappie and American shad. There will also be a Shad Derby meeting after the class for those angler wishing to register. For more details and directions to Mosquito Creek Outdoors, visit their website at

This Weeks Report

I'm saddened to report of events last week here in Florida that critically injured a lifelong friend for which I paid a visit to yesterday. Knowing of her fragility and the tender feelings I hold for her, I tried to prepare myself for the sight I would see as I approached her. My reluctance grew stronger and stronger the closer I got, and the damage I witnessed was beyond all my expectations. If you haven't put it together yet, my allusion is to the Indian River Lagoon. Ten days of freezing temperature were more than the IRL could handle, and a large number of species took a serious hit. Redfish and black drum seemed to have survive for the most part, but the large breeder sea trout and snook were devastated. The lagoon floor was littered with dead fish of all sorts and the shoreline had a scattering of dead sea turtles and birds. On my charter yesterday, we located a school of about 20 redfish right away, but after two hours of chunking an assortment of bait with no takers, I broke the cardinal rule of never leave fish to find fish, and we finished the day without seeing another redfish or getting a bite.

I strongly suggest that all who read this report go to the Lagoon and witness the devastation firsthand, because descriptions do not serve it justice. In 1977 we had a similar situation, and back then it took about 5 years to recover, but we also had twice the habitat and one tenth the anglers we have now. I see this morning that the FWC has already acted on closing snook, tarpon and bonefish through August, and I suspect similar action for other specie will follow.

This only proves that now we must practice conservation and good ethics on the water if we ever expect our lagoon to recover to the sustainable recreational fishery it was. I know we've had more than our share of bad news lately with the closures of our offshore fisheries and now the freeze, so the importance of conservation is now greater than ever. I also know this news is not good for my guide business, but it is what it is, and hopefully anglers who rely on the charter fishing industry will continue to support the guides.

On the bright side, we are fortunate that we live in Florida where we have an abundance of other fisheries. I haven't heard of much damage off of the beach, so I assume the pompano and whiting are a good option. On the inland lakes and rivers some tilapia and armored catfish were killed, but the American shad run has begun and the crappie have starting to bite. So, I say let our friend rest for a bit and have some fun catching crappie, shad and pompano, and our stressed out lagoon fish will have a greater chance of recovery.

shad on fly

Speaking of shad, the Shad Derby begins with a free shad and crappie fishing seminar held at Mosquito Creek Outdoors in Apopka on January 23rd from 10 am to noon with a short anglers meeting to follow and for more directions go to Mosquito Creek Outdoors or Fishing Florida Radio. I did catch two nice fish on fly last week, and I've heard many other good reports. Also, if you do not own a boat or your boat has deep draft, Bruce Fryer of Central Florida Airboat Tours, Central Florida Airboat Tours (407) 321-0753, is offering a water taxi services from the Jolly Gator Fish Camp for twenty dollars. Bruce can deliver you to points from the mouth of Puzzle Lake to Lake Harney and other shad hotspots. Also, there are several guides, Captains Chris Myers, John Kumiski and myself who are available for shad charters and lessons, and all equipment is provided. Remember, both fresh and saltwater fishing license is required to catch shad in fresh water. Most saltwater guides have a saltwater fishing license covering everyone on their boat, but Florida law requires each angler to acquire their own freshwater license. Fishing licenses can be purchased directly online through the
FWC's Website.

The Revival of the Saint Johns River Shad Derby

A Free Online Fun Fishing Event

Derby Rules

Derby starts at sunrise on Sunday January 24th, and ends at sunset February 28th.

There is no entry fee; anglers must register at one of the official Derby sponsor locations and pick-up the official Derby Token, Mosquito Creek Outdoors in Apopka, Florida.

Anglers must meet all of the fishing regulations requirements of the State of Florida and possess both fresh and saltwater license if it applies.

This is a catch, photograph and release (CPR) tournament only.

Anglers are permitted to fish anywhere on the Saint Johns River system.

Angles must take fish with hook and line only.

Anglers are permitted to fish in any manner desired, paddle fishing, boat, shoreline or wade.

Anglers can fish as many times as they want within the Derby timeframe and contestant can submit as many photos as they want. One prize per contestant per category.

Three categories will be presented, fly division, conventional division, and junior division 15-years old and under.

Fish must be measured using any commercially developed and purchased measuring device, homemade measuring devices are forbidden. Official measurement will be total length from the nose to the tip of the tail, no pinched tail, longest fish wins. Two photos must be submitted, one showing size and token card from Mosquito Creek, and one photo with contestant holding fish. If caught on fly please submit photo with fly visible. Photos must be emailed or sent via Internet form to Fishing Florida or with contestants name and how caught.

Angler is responsible for uploading photos to the official derby judging Internet site. Photos must include the official derby token, no exceptions.
In the event of a tie, the angler who uploads his photo first wins.

Derby judges final decision stands.

For more information on how to sign up and post your photos, visit

Fishing Florida Radio's website.
As always, if you need information or have any questions, please contact me.

Good luck and good fishing and happy holidays,

Captain Tom Van Horn
407-416-1187 on the water
407-366-8085 land line

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