By Terry Gibson
Few places in the civilized world offer such a rich diversity of fishing opportunities as the Sebastian area. Located centrally on Florida’s Treasure Coast, the quaint City of Sebastian thrives among the Sunshine State’s most enviable fresh- and saltwater ecosystems.
To the west, in the lakes and marshes of the St. Johns River watershed, anglers enjoy some of the best freshwater fishing for some of the nation’s biggest largemouth bass, crappie and pan fish.
Sebastian nestles up against the legendary, 156-mile-long Indian River Lagoon. Historically, the “IRL” boasted more fish species -- nearly 800 species -- than most other estuaries in North America. The diversity and abundance of fish it still produces never ceases to amaze.
This wide, shallow estuary also provides the nursery grounds for a great many species that we target along Treasure Coast beaches and offshore in the deep blue Atlantic. So whether you’re simply fishing for dinner or wanting to add many beautiful species and places to your life of list of angling accomplishments, Sebastian is a must-visit angling destination.
Sebastian Inlet State Park
Sebastian Inlet State Park offers anglers many amenities, including foot access to arguably the region’s best surf fishing, pier fishing and wade fishing. Amenities include campsites, and picnic areas, as well as a bait and tackle shop plus a restaurant.
Sebastian Inlet’s north jetty allows anglers to fish the inlet and surf-zone waters. Target species include jumbo red and black drum, flounder and mangrove snapper.
Surf anglers plying the “suds” score snook, pompano, Spanish mackerel and many other delicious species. Fall through spring, surf-zone anglers catch delicious pompano on sandfleas, shrimp and clams, or throw flashy jigs and spoons for Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Snook, though, are a star attraction.
May through September, schools of the hard-fighting common snook (Centropomus undecimalis), run along the beaches, stack up along the jetties and lurk in the mangroves inside the IRL. This species can be found almost exclusively in Florida, (though a few are found near the border between Texas and Mexico), and one of the world’s healthiest populations exists along the Treasure Coast. Anglers intercept them with flies, lures and live bait. Snook are delicious, but the season is closed June through August. During the open seasons, you may keep only one snook between 28 and 32 inches total length. They’re always fun to catch and release.
Fall brings the “mullet run,” a baitfish migration of epic proportions that attracts every predator under the sun. Snook, tarpon and sharks, as well as bluefish, jacks and red drum savagely attack acres and acres of migrating mullet. The feeding frenzies explode along the beach, jetties and IRL shorelines. You never know what you’ll catch next.
Fishing The Inlet
Boating anglers have access to more of Sebastian Inlet’s nooks and crannies, including ledges that serve as ambush points for flounder getting ready for their late fall spawning migration offshore. Vertical jigging for pompano and Spanish mackerel is also effective during winter. Big schools of “bull” redfish, snook and bluefish often stack up in the rips that are difficult for shore anglers to reach.
A high-relief limestone reef runs a few hundred yards off the beach from the south side of Sebastian Inlet just about all the way to Fort Pierce. Especially during the spring and summer months, schools of tarpon, giant jack crevalle and false albacore, as well as sharks and cobia, swim along the reefs, maurading the bait pods. These fish are often up on the surface, offering exciting sight-casting opportunities for fly fishermen and anglers casting lures and bait with conventional tackle.
Indian River Lagoon
The IRL is a flats fisherman’s paradise. Snook, red drum and spotted sea trout are among the top all stars. If chasing world records interests you, the Sebastian area is a top place to get on the leader board with all three species. Other popular targets include pompano, tarpon and sheepshead.
Wading anglers and kayakers enjoy the advantage of stealth from access points such as Sebastian Inlet State Park and Long Point Park, among many roadside access points. Live bait such as shrimp fished under a popping cork works well, as does a variety of surface and subsurface plugs. Flies, soft-plastic shrimp and jerk baits also excel.
Anglers fishing in skiffs work the flats and shorelines, also putting stealth and sun to their advantage. They sight fishing and blind casting with the same baits and lures.
St. Sebastian River
The lower St. Sebastian River, which empties into the IRL just northwest of Sebastian Inlet, hold lots of big trout and plenty of redfish. Work the docks, oyster bars and mangrove shorelines around the railroad bridge. The upper river, which flows through St. Sebastian River State Park, is an unforgettable place to fish from canoe or kayak. The river winds through high bluffs lined with hardwood hammocks. It produces a mix of fish that can handle very fresh water, including tarpon, snook, and bass.
A clear blue ocean river, the Gulf Stream current, flows north along past the Treasure Coast and all along the Eastern Seaboard. Migratory species such as sailfish, mahi and wahoo travel on it, hunting in packs along its edges and eddies. Fishing for reef fish including many species of snapper and grouper is also highly productive in the blue water that beckons off Sebastian Inlet. Deep-sea fishing excitement awaits the adventurous fisherman.
Fast Freshwater Action
The biggest bass typically come out of the Stick Marsh/Farm 13, which is a specially managed as a catch-and-release only trophy bass lake. Lake Garcia is a shallow, weedy impoundment known for numbers plus a few big fish. Lake Kenansvile produces great catches of crappie as well as bass. For sheer beauty -- and great fishing -- Lake Blue Cypress is unforgettable.
For inshore and offshore guided fishing trips, contact Capt. Glyn Austin at Going Coastal Charters.
Need a full-service marina and a great place to stay? Contact Capt Hirams.
For more information on accommodations, contact the Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce.
For more information on Lake Garcia and the Stickmarsh, call Bait Bucket 772-571-5217 and Stick Marsh Bait & Tackle Shop at 772-571-9855.
For information and accommodations on Lake Blue Cypress, visit middletonsfishcamp.com.
For more about fishing in Florida in general, try VISIT FLORIDA’s fishing page: visitflorida.com/florida-fishing.html