Scouting The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Because of the Peacocks Pocket Road closure, I decided to try scouting the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge this afternoon to find some other fishing spots.

I knew that the Haulover Canal bridge was closed for repairs for the next month so I headed down SR46 to Mims so I could take US1 towards Scotsmoor.

After I gassed up the truck, I decided to hit the Jones Street Boat launch to see if anybody was fish there.   After driving over the dusty road to Jones Street and crossing the railroad tracks, I parked at the waters edge to check out the area.

The huge abandoned bi-hull houseboat was still in the same spot as last year, but the top was now off.

The water was crystal clear so I pulled out one of my rods with a swimbait and made a few casts towards the boat.   After several casts without a bite, I decided to move on to another potential fishing area.

My next spot up the road was the Scottsmoor Boat Launch.  I hadn't visited that area in about a year so I drove onto Huntington Ave. to see what the water level looked like.

When I pulled up close to the ramp, I was surprised that there was plenty of water at the dock to launch my Maverick, or the kayaks that I picked up last month for my birthday.

The water around the shallow flats looked clean but I didn't bother to fish.  I took a few pics and headed out to Shiloh Road.

I crossed the bridge, took the right turn into the refuge and slowly headed down the dusty road toward the barrier.

When I hit the first culvert, I noticed that it was open and there was a good flow of water coming in from the Indian River.

I pulled over and took a few pictures of the area.  I remembered that this area was good for juvenile tarpon, ladyfish, and redfish during the spring, so I took out a rod with a Johnsons Sprite gold spoon and started blind casting the area.

I caught and released several ladyfish on the spoon before taking this brief video of the action.  The ladyfish were small and I could have used them for bait, but I didn't have anything to keep them fresh in so I returned all the fish.

After the fourth or fifth fish, I had a hit from a juvenile tarpon about 2 feet long, but it flipped off and never took the spoon again.

I tried the spoon, a DOA Baitbuster, and a jighead with a paddletail bait on both sides of the culvert but the fish quit biting, so I moved on up the road to check out where I could launch my kayak.

At the barrier to Shiloh Road where several cars were parked, there appeared to be a small launch area that people had been using for kayaks or canoes.  Just the ticket for my kayak debut.

I turned around and decided to ride over to Patillo Creek and check out the fishing conditions there.

On the way, I spotted a very large Timber Rattlesnake that was crossing the road.  I pulled over to take  a pic of the snake as it crossed safely and laid stretched out on the grass shoulder.

The snake was not in the least bit afraid and just laid there eyeing me up as I slowly took these pics and the brief video.

He started to move under my truck, so I decided to get out of his way and continue my scouting trip.

I drove into Patillo creek and headed to several spots I used to fish on a semi-regular basis.

I fished three spots but never got a hit or a follow up, so I continued to the deeper water area where Karen and I sometimes fished for black drum.

As I pulled into the area, several fishermen were on the bank dunking shrimp and cut baits.

I stopped to ask how one group was doing and Alex and his friend Chico said they had caught 4 nice drum.  He was eager to show me their catch, so I pilled over and took these pics along with a brief video.

Alex said that when they had been using fresh shrimp, they were not getting any bites, but when they switched to old "stinky" shrimp, the fish started hitting.

As I passed by their truck where the bait was being kept and got a whiff of the shrimp, I had no doubt that he was telling me the whole truth.

Alex's friend told me that some fisherman yesterday had caught 14 drum in the same spot.

I bid them farewell and decided to make one more stop before heading home.  I drove past the radar dome that my wife calls the "gumball"  to check out Beacon 42 boat ramp.

I was surprised to find the parking area empty.  Nobody was fishing the area.

I got out of the truck and checked out the water.  It was relatively clear and the water levels were down only slightly. A perfect day to take out my flats boat.

Anyway, it was getting towards dinner so I headed out towards US1 and the house.

About halfway up the road, I spotted a flock of turkeys on one side of the road and a cleanup crew of vultures on the other side of the road making a dead hog the main course.

I pulled up to the crew of 10 vultures, and they weren't in the least bit intimidated.  I took these pics and left them to their dinner.

As I headed home to my dinner, I was glad I made the scouting trip.  I found several spots to put in my kayak without drowning on the first try, and several more to bank fish.

Till next time, Tight  lines.