In Spring, really special fishing opportunities set up along Treasure Coast beaches.
Capt. Justin Rieger, Sharon McBreen, Justin Grubich and I recently ran the beach north of the St. Lucie Inlet, in Stuart, in search of cobia. That sort of fishing can involve a lot of hunting, but Justin, whose specialty is cobia fishing, had been on the fish. We idled along a nearshore reef where he’d seen packs of them, and bam, a school of 20-odd fish swam right to the boat.
We caught at least 10 fish, including three keepers, and we saw every fish that hit actually take our lures. Sharon, who is about as competitive as competitive gets, caught the biggest one, loath as we are to admit it. She grilled that fish after soaking it in ginger salad dressing. Yum.
Once we lost our sight-fishing light, we ran over to some shallow structure and caught a mess of chunky, delicious lane snappers, which are abundant here in winter and early spring. We finished out the day fly-fishing for Spanish mackerel, which stick around in hoards here until the end of March or so.
While we caught fish, our captain and I took in the signs of impending spring. The most obvious sign was the warm, clear green water. And green and loggerhead turtles kept popping up. Justin has been seeing quite a few leatherbacks, which are the earliest nesters. They get really busy in March, and cobia really likes to follow them around, since they provide moving structure.
There were also schools of forage fish called “Atlantic bumper” or locally, “hornbellies,” due their sharp anal spines. These fish usually arrive before the more prized forage fish species including thread herring and pilchards. Once a good mix of bait shows up, we will catch cobia, tarpon and big jacks. Even the sailfish move inshore to feed really shallow. And I almost forgot about the spinner sharks.
From late January to early June, at least when conditions are calm and clear enough, you can experience some of the most exciting big-game fishing in shallow water along the Treasure Coast’s beaches, especially from Sebastian Inlet to the Jupiter Inlet. These fish take flies, lures and natural baits. You can find lots of great guides out of Jupiter, Stuart and Fort Pierce, as well as out of Sebastian. It’s my favorite season on the Treasure Coast.