Spring Break: Florida Species Hunt

My dad and I have been talking about making a trip to Florida to do some fishing for a few years now. But school or work have always gotten in the way of that happening, but with this being my last semester of college we knew we had to make it happen this year. So on my the Friday before my last spring break we packed up all of our fishing gear into our SUV and made the long drive from Indiana to Florida. We spent all of Friday driving, and then finished the drive to Gainesville on Saturday. We didn’t do any fishing this first day, but we spent some time with my Uncle and hiked through Paynes Prairie. There was lots of cool wildlife out and about (so much so that we had to stop on the way back home to get some better pictures).

Sunday was our first day of fishing, we made the drive from Gainesville to Cedar Key. My uncle had a few secret spots here that he thought we could find some Red Drum. We got there at an outgoing tide and things went downhill from there. We each had a few bites, but no one managed to land any fish. We decided to shift out expectations and moved to the fishing Pier at Cedar Key. We casted around until we found a little channel that ran parallel to the pier and started getting into some fish. We caught more Silver Perch than I could count. But I got lucky and managed to get one Atlantic Croaker out of the group.

After this we made the drive to Lake Mary to stay at my Grandmother’s house. My dad’s one request about this trip was that he wanted to do some bass fishing. One of my family members down here has a wonderful lake behind their house that they gave us access to fish at. We fished a simply texas rig with a black worm with a blue tail and caught a ridiculous number of fish. I caught the biggest fish of the day, but I was much more excited that my dad broke his personal best.

Tuesday we did something I’ve never done…and I know some of you here will think its cheating…but we went fishing with a guide. Now in our defense we did this because it would cost us more to rent a boat than it would to go with a guide. We drove down to Ponce Inlet to meet our guide to fish the intercostal waters there. We started off fishing some old docks that were destroyed by hurricanes and managed to catch a few Lane Snapper, Mangrove Snapper and Hardhead Catfish. Now I’ll admit I missed probably 90% of the bites we got because we were using kahle hooks and this was the first time I’ve ever fished with them.  

We moved around a lot and my dad gad didn’t have any trouble landing Black Drum, Red Drum, Weakfish and Pigfish. I however only managed to land more Hardhead Catfish and Pinfish.

After our half day with the guide we drove over to Canaveral National Seashore to do some more fishing. But first we decided we would walk part of the beach in search of some cool shells…this was a big mistake. Little to our knowledge this beach is actually a nude beach…we made a hasty retreat from the beach and moved to the fishing piers. We caught more Silver Perch, Mangrove Snapper and Pinfish, but I did manage to catch one new species while we were fishing here: a single Southern Whiting.

On Wednesday we went down to Cocoa Beach to rent a kayak and try fishing the Banana River, the only problem with this is my dad was coming off back surgery so I was in charge of all of the paddling. As you’d expect he outfished me, he caught Red fish, Spotted Seatrout, Southern Whiting and Hardhead Catfish. I mostly just dragged a piece of shrimp around the bottom while trying to keep the kayak from getting blown around too much. But I did manage to catch a few Hardhead Catfish and Southern Whiting.

The wind kept picking up and I was having trouble keeping us near the islands we were fishing, so we decided it was time to return the kayak and find a place to fish from the bank. We ended up at Rodney S. Ketcham Boat Ramp with high hopes of catching a good number of species. My dad quickly caught a Ladyfish, but all I seemed to be able to find were Irish Mojarra. It was a new species for me so I was happy just to be catching something.

Thursday was our last day to fish saltwater so we made the drive down to Sebastians Inlet with big dreams of Snook and big Jacks. But when we got there it was made quite clear that wasn’t in the cards today. We rigged up with livebaits, but didn’t get a single bite. So I switched over to fishing shrimp right along the pilings. To my surprise there were a lot of fish hanging out here, even with the waves crashing through them. I ended up catching Sheepshead, Hairy Blenny, Molly Miller and Slippery Dick.

We had fun catching these little guys for about an hour and then decided to move on to Jetty Park in Port Canaveral. We knew the setup that was working best for use, so as soon as we arrived I lowered my shrimp rig straight down by the pier. This time I was reward with a little Blue Runner.

Soon after I got another tap and managed to pull up a small Atlantic Bumper.

At this point we discovered how productive it was to cast our baits into the rocks of the jetty and wait for the swarm of fish there to find the bait. Surprisingly we didn’t get many rigs hung up in there. We pulled Spottail Pinfish, Sergeant Major, Black Margate and Hairy Blenny out of the rocks.

At this point our time was coming to an end so we packed up, gave the last of our shrimp to another angler and drove back to Lake Mary.

On Friday we did an hour and a half of bass fishing at the same lake, we both caught fish but nothing that compared to the fish we caught that first day. With that we started the drive back to Indiana with a long list of new species and some sunburns.

Species List: 
Bass, Largemouth
Blenny, Hairy
Bumper, Atlantic
Catfish, Hardhead
Croaker, Atlantic
Margate, Black
Mojarra, Irish
Perch, Silver
Pinfish, Spottail
Runner, Blue
Sergeant Major
Snapper, Lane
Snapper, Mangrove
Whiting, Southern
Wrasse, Slippery Dick


No greater fishing buddies than dads and grandpas! Nice rport, and interesting assortment of Atlantic marine species! Congrats on your new lifers!

IsaacsFishingCorner's picture

I couldn't agree more, some of my favorite fishing trips have been with my dad. Thanks!

Matt Miller's picture

Thanks for sharing this report. It looks like a great way to do spring break. I have almost entirely focused on freshwater when I have been in Florida; I think I need to start pier fishing too.

IsaacsFishingCorner's picture

Pier fishing can be a lot of fun, it's something different than what I'm used to doing in freshwater. Next time I get the chance to go down there I really want to focus on the freshwater fish that are down there, it didn’t end up every working out to get any new freshwater lifers this trip

DinoFish's picture

Awesome report, looks like you had a lot of fun and got some awesome new lifers! I'd love to head down there sometime and get some of those cool fish!

"Fishing is much more than fish... It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers." - Herbert Hoover

IsaacsFishingCorner's picture

Thanks! I was really excited about how many new lifers I added. I hope you get the chance to fish down there sometime!

Goldenfishberg's picture

Awesome lifer journey man! It never gets old seeing those slippery dick wrasse, the 12 year old in me giggles like an idiot everytime I see one. Conrgats on the successful father son adenvture!

Ya just Can't catch um from the couch.

IsaacsFishingCorner's picture

Thanks! My dad and I both had a good laugh when we I explained to him what I had hooked

Moose439's picture

Nice variety, I especially like the blennies.

IsaacsFishingCorner's picture

Thanks man, I was really happy to add them to my list