During the Prohibition Era, bootleggers smuggled whiskey and spirits right through the heart of Mosquito Lagoon in attempts to evade the law. The wild-hearted Vann family hosted parties on what is now known as Vann’s Island that, according to legend, lasted for days. Confederate soldiers found Shipyard Island an ideal place to make repairs to damaged vessels during the Civil War, and Orange Island once was home to a magnificent plantation.
As much as the Mosquito Lagoon is filled with history, it is just as rich with an inshore flats favorite-redfish!
With 23 miles of pristine habitat, the Mosquito Lagoon is a premier destination for sightfishing redfish in shallow water. What makes Mosquito Lagoon unique from most other redfish destinations is the absence of measurable tides. Water levels are more dependent on wind than lunar influence, making flats fishing an “all day long” event.
Shadowed by the John F. Kennedy Space Center, the Mosquito Lagoon lies within the Meritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and is simply pure wilderness. Furthermore, most of my clients tell me that the Mosquito Lagoon is one of the cleanest bodies of water they have fished. One rarely sees trash or other discarded items in the Lagoon.
Anglers venturing into the southern end of the lagoon can easily see Space Shuttle launch pads 39A and 39B, as well as the Vehicle Assembly Building that houses the Shuttle fleet.
Unlike many other redfish destinations, the Mosquito Lagoon serves as home base for redfish all year long and no offshore migration occurs for spawning fish. Several tagging studies have shown that most redfish spend their entire lifespan within six miles of their birthplace. With this in mind, one might understand why the Mosquito Lagoon has some of the biggest redfish in the world to be stalked in shallow water.
Redfish are known for their bulldog-like fight and sometimes-voracious appetite. Combine these characteristics with the shallow, clear water of Mosquito Lagoon and you have a recipe for angling bliss.
At any given time of the year, many fish approaching the 40-pound mark are taken on light tackle, although most anglers’ efforts are concentrated on the skinny water “slot” redfish that inhabit the majority of Mosquito Lagoon. It has been said that there are more redfish concentrated in Mosquito Lagoon than in any other place in Florida.
Schools of 50 to 500 redfish are not uncommon. Often such schools will remain in the same area for weeks if angling pressure hasn’t sent them elsewhere.
A seven-foot medium action rod and 8-10 pound test line is all you will need for most scenarios. Vast sand and mudflats harbor little structure to separate you from a hooked fish.
For the fly angler, an 8-weight rod is considered “standard issue” for most redfish encounters. Successful fly patterns include the Clouser Minnow, Merkin Crab, and a variety of shrimp patterns. As with most fly-fishing scenarios, your presentation of the fly is more critical than fly selection.
Navigating the interior waters, especially during the low water winter months, can be treacherous. On any given weekend day, you can expect to see a skiff run aground with it’s occupants eventually having to roll up their pants and push to deeper water.
Productive wading areas are minimal at best, and a mostly soft mud bottom can end up as a cardiovascular workout instead of relaxation. However, the more adventuresome angler might find the maze of dike roads and “mosquito ditches” to their liking. These ditches are lead to many backwater ponds and lakes that are home to plenty of redfish and black drum. Anglers willing to do their homework may find a good snook population, as well as juvenile tarpon.
While the Mosquito Lagoon does not get the notoriety that the Everglades fishery may, those that experience this magical place always want to return.
Capt. Scott MacCalla
Article published April 2004, Onshore-Offshore Magazine