The Indian River Lagoon fringes Florida's Atlantic east coast from Ponce De Leon Inlet and southward approximately 150 miles toward Hobe Sound. It's natural and manmade inlets provide tidal movement and flushing that is crucial to the health and well being of aquatic marine and estuary life. Three distinct interconnecting bodies of water makeup the Indian River Lagoon system, starting in the north with the Mosquito Lagoon and connecting directly west via the manmade Haulover Canal is the official northern Indian River Lagoon near the cities of Scottsmore, Mims and Titusville. Traveling southward the Lagoon is split by Merritt Island where the island's eastern side host the Banana River Lagoon while it's western shore maintains the Indian River Lagoon name for the next one hundred miles or so until it reaches the town of Hobe Sound and Jupiter Inlet.
The Indian River Lagoon is part of the 3000 mile Intracoastal Waterway that borders most of the eastern seaboard of the United States and Gulf of Mexico. The Intracoastal Waterway or ICW is a mostly natural protected waterway that has been enhanced with manmade canals and dredging to promote commerce and safe, protected passage for commercial and recreational vessels without the hazards of the open ocean and rough seas. The ICW was commissioned by congress in 1919 and is loosely maintained by the United States Army Corp of Engineers. While the USACE is responsible for investigating, developing and maintaining the nation's water and related environmental resources many environment concerns and requirements have prevented the USACE from rigorously maintaining the ICW and it's waterways.
During the last century the IRL has become a mecca for recreational and sports fishing enthusiast. Anglers from all over the world travel to this renowned fishing destination for popular saltwater gamefish species. Sports fishing has created a foundation for a multi billion dollar industry in Florida with boat manufacturers, outdoors and fishing tackle stores. The Indian River Lagoon has helped groom central Florida into a true eco-tourism and outdoor destination for American and the world.
A lagoon is a body of comparatively shallow salt or brackish water separated from the deeper sea by a shallow or exposed sandbank, coral reef, or similar feature. In the case of the IRL, it is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a thin barrier island with narrow breaks or "openings" called inlets. Almost the entire eastern seaboard of Florida is a barrier island and Brevard County has a well known city on it's barrier island called Cocoa Beach and it also host the Canaveral National Seashore and northward to Ponce Inlet.
The Indian River Lagoon is a TRUE lagoon, there are no headwaters or freshwater springs feeding the lagoon as indicated by it's name "Indian River". The small turbulent inlets including Sebastian Inlet, New Smyrna Inlet, Fort Pierce Inlet, St. Lucie Inlet and Jupiter Inlet in the far south are just a few spigots that feed into the IRL with clean saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean.. There is very little freshwater intrusion from natural sources other than small creeks and rivers like the Sebastian River, Turkey Creek and Crane Creek. There as several manmade canals coming from the center of the state that control water levels during rainy seasons, unfortunately they often contain agricultural runoff and petroleum products from roadways and developed areas. However these spillways can also be mecca's for gamefish like snook for observant anglers.
Located between Daytona Beach's Ponce Inlet and Jupiter Inlet near Hobe Sound, this stretch of almost 200 miles of coastline includes six counties countless towns, cities and communities which thrive and depend on the lagoon as a resource and recreational focal point.
Lagooner Fishing Guide host it's charter fishing service out of Brevard County and takes anglers for half and full day fishing adventures out of several popular and remote ramps in the Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral area. Other counties on the IRL include Volusia, Indian River County, St Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach.
Some would argue, depending on what part of the 200 mile long lagoon they are actively involved in that the IRL is pristine. At first glance many anglers are mesmerized by the shear beauty of the our saltwater lagoon estuary. The northern end of the IRL, known as the Mosquito Lagoon is a 20 mile stretch that borders the Kennedy Space Center and it's Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. Since the mid 1980's this has become a mecca for anglers and it's sight fishing opportunities. While many of the younger generation looks at this as an unspoiled watershed, old timers like Captain Richard Bradley, beg to differ and remember when the Mosquito Lagoon was a healthier, clearer habitat.
Fortunately in 1992, the voters of the State of Florida amended the Florida Constitution to Ban inshore entanglement nets and limit commercial fishing within three miles of shore. While this has helped and possibly saved the fish populations, the next assault that needs to be confronted will be protecting our lagoon from over-development and the problems of storm water runoff.
One of the more prevalent ecological problems to the Indian River Lagoon is storm water runoff. Unlike natural runoff that occurred before human development, storm water runoff comes from our roadways, parks, golf courses and other sources. Every summer storm spills millions of gallons of runoff into the lagoons sending petroleum products from roadways and nitrates/phosphates and other chemicals from yards and manicured landscaping. While raw sewage has been greatly illuminated from the lagoon, treated sewage and waste are evasive and killing tens of thousands of acres of important sea grass each decade.
Our lagoons are still beautiful, but only thru diligence and constant conservation can we keep our lagoons healthy for fish and wildlife populations to continue.
Whether you choose to go fishing, boat riding, or swimming in the IRL it's a great experience in the Florida sunshine. Lagooner Fishing Guides are trained professionals that help you catch fish and enjoy your outdoor experience to it's fullest.
This family went for a day on the IRL and had a blast on this late March afternoon fishing with a Indian River Fishing Guide. "We saw manatees, dolphins and caught a load of big fish, it was the best day I've had with my dad!" explains one of the kids above. "We caught redfish and spotted seatrout." says another excited young angler.
Looking for information about fishing the Indian River Lagoon or IRL in Central Florida? Call (321) 868-4953 and Ask for Captain Richard or his fishing mate Captain Gina. They'll be more than glad to talk to you in length about setting up a fishing trip while you're visiting the area.
The winter is trying to blow by us and spring is coming quickly for 2014. Seatrout on the Indian River Lagoon will be starting to spawn and as long as the temperatures remain pretty constant and we have no more major drops in the mercury the seatrout spawn will produce some large trout for anglers. If the temperatures stay low, the spawn will just be later in the year and possibly come in April. Late winter and spring are great times to target a gator sized trout.
Redfish have been very consistant this year and should continue thru the month of March and into April. March is known for windy conditions and will make sightfishing prohibitive unless there's a shoreline or protective cove where numbers of reds can be found. Redfish often school as the spring starts to get underway, look for red drum fishing to improve even more as we move into April and May.
Call Captain Gina to set a date for your next fishing trip in the Indian River Lagoon's shallow water for some extraordinary fishing this year.
Captain Richard Bradley