Few outside the Space Coast knew about the bountiful fishing for giant red and black drum in the northern Indian River Lagoon until about 15 years ago. Traveling fishing writers and hosts of outdoors television shows who discovered this magnificent inshore fishery in the mid-1990s waxed poetic about hooking 30-pound redfish in the glow of the fireball from the launch of the space shuttle at nearby Cape Canaveral. Pretty soon, east-central Florida's best-kept secret became its recreational claim to fame. These days, there are a lot more skiffs buzzing across the flats of the Indian River, Mosquito Lagoon and Banana River. But despite the increased boat traffic, a gaggle of large, lumbering redfish locals call "the school" just keeps milling around the estuary all year long, and there are plenty of smaller reds, as well as big sea trout and flounder scattered throughout. The giant black drum show up mainly in winter in the no-motor zone of the northern Banana River where they tail and make deep, bass-drumming noises while feeding in the waist-deep water. Best drum baits are large blue crab carapaces (claws cut off) fished on the bottom; root-beer-colored jigs; shrimp; surface plugs and, for fly-fishers, Clouser minnows. Offshore anglers may pursue cobia and tripletail in the Atlantic off Cape Canaveral or, for the truly adventurous, a dawn-to-dark expedition to the east side of the Gulf Stream to troll big lures for yellowfin tuna. There are numerous locations to launch your boat in Titusville, Merritt Island and Port Canaveral. If you have a small boat and you are not familiar with the local waters, stick to the main part of the Indian River. Sleepy Titusville is centrally located among these fisheries, which are close to the Kennedy Space Center, and about 45 minutes from Disney World. For more information about lodging and fishing charters on the Space Coast, visit space-coast.com.
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