On The Fly Saltwater
Article and Photos by Jimmy Jacobs
The snook fishing at Sebastian Inlet on Florida’s east coast is really no secret. For decades anglers have headed to that pass to tangle with big linesides, particularly while fishing at night. You also hear a lot about the fall angling during the mullet run, when every predator in the water seems to show up on this piece of coastline.
But those are not the only options for targeting snook, or a host of other fish with a fly in this area.
On The Sand
During the warmer months of the year the fishing for snook can be good right on the beaches, both north and south of Sebastian Inlet. The key to handling these fish on the fly is finding the right conditions. Quite often the linesides cruise right off the sand in easy reach of a fly cast. On the other hand, this is a sight-casting affair, so you have to be able to see the snook.
Periods of clear water and calmer surf are the best. We are not, however, talking about smooth as glass Gulf-coast calm – it just needs to offer some space between the rollers coming to shore. Time of day plays a role too. While the fish may be active at first light, you also have the sun slanting in from the east, making it difficult to impossible to handle the glare and see the fish. Midday into the evening is better when the sun is over head or the light is coming over your shoulder.
You can either walk the beach looking for the snook, or stake out a spot where the water is a couple of feet deep in close and wait for them to approach. These fish are virtually always cruising parallel to the shoreline.
When you see the snook, the best option is to get the fly out in front and beyond it. Then pull it back, so that when the snook and fly are in close proximity, you can strip your offering away from the lineside to look like a fleeing baitfish.
While the snook can show up anywhere along the sand, one place to check out is the “pocket.” This the little cove formed at the outside base of the north jetty at Sebastian Inlet. Here the water is deeper, often calm and usually full of bait. That in turn attracts the snook.
As for gear, 9-weight rods are good, since you usually have wind to fight, as well as the possibility of hooking a big snook. Also, an intermediate or sinking line are necessary. Otherwise, the wave action makes controlling your retrieve and keeping the fly down in the water very difficult.
As for the flies, anything that matches the size and color of any baitfish present can work. A few of the beach flies we’ve found to be successful are Clouser minnows in chartreuse and white or electric chicken color schemes. Also, Puglisi-style ties in pinfish pattern or purple have worked. Even, Tarpon Toads in chartreuse or purple and black have turned the trick. Often it is just prospecting until you find what the snook want.
In The Lagoon
Inside Sebastian Inlet, the Indian River Lagoon stretches both north and south, offering year-round action for a number of saltwater denizens. Along mangrove shores or in canals it is possible to find seatrout, redfish, snook, mangrove snapper, black drum, flounder and sheepshead. All of these can be susceptible to well-placed flies.
Access to the water is the first order of business. If you have a boat, there are places to launch. On the other hand, for the traveling angler without a vessel, the place to head is Mullet Creek, to the north of the inlet. More specifically, pay a visit to Honest John’s Fish Camp, where you can launch your boat, or rent kayaks and 14-foot fishing skiffs with 6 horse-power outboard motors for the day.
Honest John’s is a truly unchanged slice of Florida. The Smith family that owns it have been on this piece of real estate since 1887, when brothers Robert T. and Charlie Smith migrated to the area from southwest Georgia to farm vegetables and citrus. Their farm even provided produce for the White House during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency.
Honest John Smith was the third of eight children of Robert. He got tired of farming and started commercial fishing, then transitioned to running the fish camp until his death in 1994. Three of his grandsons now operate the business.
The camp sits on the northern edge of Mullet Creek at its junction with the lagoon, offering access to a large no-wake manatee zone that is ideal for kayak or small boat angling. The fish camp’s website provides directions, a list of amenities and maps of the adjacent water to make your navigation easier.