The first streaks of morning sunlight were trying desperately to penetrate the thick morning fog as Capt. Troy Perez pointed his 18-foot Action Craft flats boat out into the placid waters of Mosquito Lagoon near Titusville, Florida. Though he has fished these waters professionally for more than 19 years, any observer could easily distinguish the excitement in his face and body language. With the calm waters and the cooler late-fall temperatures, Capt. Perez knew that the redfish and trout would be on the prowl in shallow water and easy to detect.
Troy Perez had grown up on a section of Merritt Island that wasn’t part of the restricted National Wildlife Refuge and learned as a child to enjoy the pleasures of catching sea trout in the lagoons and king mackerel and tripletails on the ocean side with his father. Most of his skills with artificial lures and competitive fishing, however, came from being a member of a local sport fishing club, and these techniques have taken him a long way. In fact, during 2004, Capt. Perez won nearly $20,000 on the professional redfish tournament circuit and finished 2nd place overall. Also, his heavy involvement with the locally famous Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant and Cabela’s has been lucrative. Nevertheless, his main source of income is being a redfish guide, and Mosquito Lagoon is his favorite haunt.
Mosquito Lagoon has been labeled “The Redfish Capital of the World,” and is located in east central Florida very close to Orlando, Daytona, Cape Canaveral, and Titusville. The Indian River, Banana River, and Mosquito Lagoon are the only places on the Eastern Atlantic where redfish spawn in a very shallow area not connected directly to the ocean and without tidal flow.
Capt. Troy Perez with RedfishSince the banning of nets and the additions of strict fishing conservation laws, the redfish population in most of Florida has exploded. In the Mosquito Lagoon area, however, sight-fishing for big reds in extremely shallow water is a huge thrill. One can stand on the deck of a flats boat while being poled by Capt. Perez through bare inches of water looking for a tiny triangle of fin sticking out of the water from a tailing redfish that has his nose down in the sand eating crabs, shrimp, or other forage. Then with the heart pumping like a hammer, one must cast a lure or a single shrimp slightly in front of the huge redfish and wait for the fish to see the offering. Instantly the rod is bent to the breaking point and the hard fight between man and fish begins!
The reason that Mosquito Lagoon provides this exciting opportunity is that it contains expansive, fertile grass flats. And, despite the fact that many reds are caught as singles, they can often be seen in schools of up to 300 fish.
This unique opportunity is made possible by the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the restricted areas of the Kennedy Space Center, and the huge expanses of water that are too shallow to safely run big boats. In fact, one of the first things visiting anglers notice is the absence of man-made structures of any kind, which is extremely rare in our modern world.
When actually catching redfish, Capt. Perez suggests light to medium spinning tackle with at least 100-250 yards of 8 pound test line. He also uses 18 to 24 inches of 20 pound test line for a leader with soft, plastic weedless baits in the shallower grass flats. Capt. Perez feels that gold, weedless spoons or live shrimp are good choices for beginners to redfishing in such shallow areas.
Though the fishing in this area is excellent, the Merritt Island and Titusville area offer a multitude of opportunities for every family member. For the basics, I would recommend the world famous Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant (321-268-5000) for food, the Kennedy Space Center (321-449-4318) for adventure, Capt. Troy Perez (321-631-4841) for fishing, and the Best Western Space Shuttle Inn (321-269-9100) for lodging.