There’s just something about catching a BIG fish on fly isn’t there? It’s not enough to catch slot-sized redfish for some anglers, although stalking the smaller fish in super-shallow water is one of my personal favorite angling pursuits.
An angler once remarked that hunting slot-sized redfish in skinny water was good “bone fishing practice,” but if you want a true bulldog fight on Mosquito Lagoon, you should take out that 9-weight, “the right fly” and try your hand at some of the biggest redfish found in inshore waters.
The Mosquito Lagoon and northern Indian River area of Florida are home to some of the largest inshore redfish in the country. Mosquito Lagoon redfish are resident fish, meaning that they do not travel offshore to spawn like they traditionally do in other parts of the country.
The vast majority of Mosquito Lagoon is not influenced by tidal flow either, making the feeding habits of big Mosquito Lagoon redfish much less predictable than tidal fisheries.
Since these fish live in Mosquito Lagoon waters year round, they are very “educated” to say the least. Couple that with the fact that redfish can live over forty years, and one might imagine how challenging it can be to catch a bull Mosquito Lagoon redfish on fly.
It can also be said with confidence that all of the bull redfish in Mosquito Lagoon have been caught at least once, if not more, in their lives.
There are a few times per year that Mosquito Lagoon bull redfish can be remarkably “easy” to catch on fly…even artificial lures, old shoes, bottle-caps, or just about anything you can throw at them…but this is not normally the case.
Those fly anglers wishing to pursue big Mosquito Lagoon redfish must have a reasonable amount of control of their casting skills. The “double-haul” is a certain prerequisite in most cases.
When your guide approaches a school of Mosquito Lagoon redfish, big or small, he doesn’t want to position the boat any closer than he has to. If the angler can cast a minimum of 50 feet accurately, his job is much easier, and the fish are less likely to “spook.”
Even the best casters never make it look easy. Some of the better casters I’ve had on my boat, like Mr. Rick Smith of Sebastian, Florida, have been amazed at how some big Mosquito Lagoon redfish refuse a prefect presentation. Rick did come out on top during his first outing, along with a newfound respect for bull Mosquito Lagoon redfish.
Schools of Mosquito Lagoon redfish exhibit several different behaviors. Fish can be daisy chaining, cruising, finning, crashing finger mullet on the surface, or simply lay-up in the water column completely motionless.
Ideally, the best angle to present a fly to a school of cruising big Mosquito Lagoon redfish is head-on, or at a slight angle to the front of the school. The redfish must encounter the fly, and not vice-versa. Casts over the back of a school of Mosquito Lagoon redfish are almost always refused, usually due to the angler having to strip the fly towards the fish-certainly not a natural presentation.
Daisy chaining schools of Mosquito Lagoon redfish are best targeted by placing the fly on the outer edges of the school AND in a position to one side of the “chain” so that the fly takes the same swimming path as the redfish…just like presenting the fly to a school of daisy chaining tarpon.
Laid-up, or motionless Mosquito Lagoon redfish may be the most challenging to some fly anglers. Every fish has a different temperament and comfort zone, so determining just how close you can drop that fly near his head (so the fish will see it) can be a game of trial and error. However, seeing a motionless Mosquito Lagoon redfish suddenly come to life and dive-bomb your fly is one of the most exciting moments in angling.
Should you be lucky enough to witness a school of big Mosquito Lagoon redfish in a total feeding frenzy where finger mullet are being completely terrorized…just cast anywhere! Redfish that begin feeding on the water’s surface are certainly the most aggressive and its time to get your fly to the froth by any means necessary.
Mosquito Lagoon bull redfish can be in a foot of water one day and 6+ feet the next. Being prepared with an assortment of flies in varying weights will afford you the best possible presentation.
The standard-issue leader is 9-12 feet with a 16-20-pound tippet. Heavier tippets provide some insurance against a break-off should you hook the 30-pound redfish that happens to be in the middle of the 200 fish school.
Popular fly patterns are those that realistically mimic sand crabs, or small blue crabs. The traditional Clouser Minnow and an assortment of other custom flys also prove effective. Presentation seems to be more of an issue than fly selection for big Mosquito Lagoon redfish.
Bull Mosquito Lagoon redfish can be caught every month of the year. In the cooler months, sometimes windy conditions will prevent your guide from even looking for big Mosquito Lagoon redfish, and your day will be much more productive seeking slot-sized redfish in shallow, protected waters.
Late afternoons in the winter months are often your best chance at a big redfish on fly, pre-dawn starts in the summer months are a must.
The State of Florida imposes a “slot limit” on the recreational harvesting of redfish. Therefore, the brood stock is protected from all but the occasional poacher. All redfish over 27-inches must be released immediately, insuring a healthy regeneration of the redfish population for years to come.
Capt. Scott Maccalla
Mosquito Lagoon – Indian River Fishing Guide