By Peter Krause
One of the most famous pop culture references to northern Brevard County is that old television classic, "I Dream of Jeannie."
Mother Nature must be a fan, because she has given our county its own genie bottle in one of the oddest formations on the east coast: Mosquito Lagoon.
Ocean currents and hurricanes sealed off Mosquito Lagoon from the Atlantic over a thousand years ago, leaving Ponce de Leon inlet as the only access. Since the only way to reach Ponce is through several miles of hammocks, islands and constricted water, the bottle of the lagoon is almost completely corked.
The copper king of Mosquito Lagoon is the redfish, and these tough gamefish have adapted like nowhere else on the planet.
Redfish normally spawn in inlets, sweeping their eggs out with the tides to hatch near the edge of the continental shelf. Large redfish are almost exclusively an offshore or inlet species.
Mosquito Lagoon is different.
Redfish there live, spawn and die almost exclusively within the lagoon. It's possible to sight-fish for 30-pound redfish just cruising the flats.
Redfish used to densely populate coastal waters, but the blackened redfish craze of the 1980s encouraged commercial fisherman to devastate fish stocks. There is no doubt the fish is one of the tastiest inshore and nearshore fish, and they are now completely protected from commercial harvest and are making a nice comeback.
Recreational anglers in Florida may only keep one redfish per day, between 18 and 27 inches. Anything smaller or larger must be released. This size limit roughly corresponds to a redfish's second year of life - if they can make it through the fisherman gauntlet of their second year, they'll never have to worry about ending up as a Cajun entrée.
In 1840, the original Haulover Canal was created to allow shipping traffic to stay within the barrier islands along Florida's east coast.
Flagler's railroad had yet to be built, and the only previous way to exchange people and goods from north Florida was a long route over the Atlantic, or a brief overland haul over northern Merritt Island.
The current, more stable Haulover Canal was built in 1887, finally uncorking the genie bottle for good. Between the dredging for the Intracoastal Waterway and the canal, a deep channel now runs like a highway through Mosquito Lagoon.
Mosquito Lagoon redfish still have their peculiar urge to remain in the area for most of their lives, but they also can't pass up the nutrient and baitfish exchange through the canal.
Because of this link, Haulover Canal is one of the best spots to find big bull redfish without the shallow-draft flatboats needed for Mosquito Lagoon itself.
Cobia anglers are finding plenty of fish following rays or on the surface. Mahi catches are improving from 150 feet on out. Look for weed lines or color changes to hold fish.
Whiting are still biting shrimp or just about anything smelly, such as clams or squid. Black drum and sheepshead are biting live shrimp in mid-Brevard beaches, especially near the coquina rocks around Patrick Air Force Base.
Jacks and small mangrove snapper are hanging around dock pilings in the canals and calmer parts of the Indian River, taking live shrimp. Large trout are biting in Mosquito Lagoon and the flats in the northern Indian River area. Use topwater plugs or spoons.
Anglers are reporting more catches in the Indian River since the water has been warming. Bream, bass, and mudfish (bowfin) are all biting, though the bass are tending to be on the small side.
Peter Krause has fished all over the Florida since his childhood, when he pulled bream out of the Everglades canals. He has fished Brevard waters for more than 10 years. Peter can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures of great catches can also be sent to him at that address.