Kayak Fishing the Indian River Lagoon

The placid waters of Florida's Indian River Lagoon provide a near perfect venue for kayak anglers.

The Indian River Lagoon is a rich estuarial habitat that stretches for over 150 miles between the Ponce DeLeon Inlet and Jupiter Inlet adjacent to Florida’s south central coast. Its brackish waters are bordered by dense growths of mangroves and grass beds that host literally thousands of organisms, which include a multitude of birds and invertebrates as well as over a dozen species of fish. It possesses an ecosystem that reflects influences of both tropical and temperate climates.

The Indian River Lagoon is also rapidly gaining the reputation as being a prime venue for kayak anglers.

Unlike those fishing the lagoon from boats propelled by outboard motors, kayak anglers enjoy the advantage of being able to navigate and work virtually every nook and cranny of this extensive system in complete silence. From the prolific mangroves and grass beds close to shore to channel edges that drop off rapidly into deeper water, the opportunities to find feeding fish in the Indian River Lagoon are practically endless.  There are also many more access points from where a kayak can be launched without waiting in line at a crowded boat ramp.

The Indian River Lagoon has been described by many as the most diverse estuarial system in the world; and once you have leisurely fished it from a meandering kayak, it is easy to understand why. Natural baits, such as small forage fish species, shrimps, crabs and sand worms abound almost everywhere and provide a richly diverse menu for a variety of popular gamefish.

In addition to the usual redfish, spotted trout and flounder, other inshore and offshore fish such as tarpon, grouper and snapper regularly enter the lagoon during their breeding seasons.

Kayak anglers should remain as low profile as possible while looking for schooling fish, and then cast well in front of them once they have been located.

Keep your bait or lure between you and the fish while slowly retrieving it with an occasional twitch to provoke a strike without spooking the entire school.

The fishing in the Indian River Lagoon was greatly enhanced in the 1950’s by the expansion of the Intracoastal Waterway. This deepened and widened the estuary as well as provided it with a multi-tonnage of dredged up rocks and sand that was later used create over 140 small terrestrial masses called spoll islands, which greatly increased the habitat available for breeding fish. They also now offer kayakers a number of designated stop off points where they can camp, picnic or fish from shore to help break up the action.

The physical features as well as the fish in this extensive body of water vary greatly from north to south. The oyster bars, spartina grass and intermittent mangrove bushes in the northern realm eventually transform into the dense growths of mangrove trees and tangled foliage that flourish under a tropical sun.

Live bait is great if you happen to have it, but most kayak anglers tend to be more partial to artificials, particularly plastic jerkbaits, swimbaits and metal spoons in either chrome or gold. There are few situations where one of these lures will not catch fish in the lagoon when they are on the chew.

Light to medium tackle is best suited for fishing the lagoon, but whether you select conventional gear or a spinning outfit always be sure to attach your bait or lure to a 12 to 18 inch fluorocarbon leader that is matched to the type and size of fish that you will be targeting.  Because it becomes virtually invisible to fish on it has been submerged, it will generally increase your number or strikes. Since there is heavy cover in most areas of the lagoon, many anglers prefer to spool up with braided line rather than monofilament because it is far more resilient to abrasion.   

Some of the most productive places for kayak fishing are just outside the pilings on docks, wharfs and piers, or along the edges of rocky drop offs that provide both structure and deeper water where hungry predators might be waiting to ambush their prey.

But no matter when or where you plan to go fishing in the Indian River Lagoon, you will enjoy a greater amount of natural beauty, a greater amount of wholesome outdoor exercise and possibly even a greater amount of fish in the cooler when you do it on a kayak.