Indian River Fishing: Complete Guide and Fishing Report

The Indian River is 121 miles long and it runs throughout the Indian River Lagoon system in East Florida. The river system runs right along the coast and it forms the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Its name came from the Rio de Ais Indian tribe and along the river, you’ll find dozens of incredibly historic Florida towns.

So, what draws people here? Why would it be worth it for you to leave your cozy little sleepy town to visit Florida for a river?

If you stick around long enough, you just might find out. Indian River fishing is some of the best in Florida. There’s a large variety of species, really healthy water, plenty of access points, and great opportunities to fish brackish inshore water.

Indian River Inlet Fishing

The Indian River Lagoon is minutes away from the Orlando International Airport and it stretches for 121 miles from New Smyrna Beach down to Vero Beach. On the way, it passes through other highly desirable areas such as Cocoa Beach and Sebastian. This river is one of the top destinations in the world for record spotted sea trout and redfish. Not to mention a majority of state records set in the state of Florida happened on the river.

The Northern stretch of the Indian River at Cape Canaveral houses the Kennedy Space Station so if that’s your cup of tea, millions have sat along the shorelines to watch NASA rocket launches over the years.

On the Eastern portion of the river is where you’ll find the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Here you can see acres upon acres of alligators, dolphins, birds, otters, and manatees.
Indian River fishing is so much more than fishing, it’s great fun and wonderful activities for the whole family even if you’re visiting with a crew that isn’t as into fishing as you are. There are plenty of things for everyone to see.

Indian River Inlet Fishing Report: Top Catches

Beautiful Redfish near Vero Beach

Alright, enough about all of that; let’s talk fishing. If you’re visiting the Indian River to snag some picture-worthy catches then you’ll want to know what you can expect to find. The Indian River is well known for having a large number of fish and plenty of different species. 

Redfish

Redfish are the number one catch throughout the Indian River Lagoon system and when you think of a true Florida fishing experience, this is where your mind goes. There are plenty of grassy shallow waters throughout the riverbanks so it’s the perfect habitat for redfish. 

One thing that redfish are known for is having a heavy appetite and they’ll feast on everything that comes their way. They’re attracted to a lot of different lures and live baits so you really don’t have to think about it too much. Most locals recommend going with soft plastic and sight fishing along with the shallow parts of the river. 

Spinning gear is the tackle of choice and it’s a great choice if you don’t have a lot of experience. Interestingly enough, most of the record size redfish caught in this river have actually been caught with flies. So, you have your choice. 

I’d suggest bringing a large variety of lures with you and making your choice based on the situation that day. Pay attention to the weather, take a look at your surroundings, and talk with other anglers and anyone else you come in contact with when you reach the river. 

Speckled Trout 

This is a world-famous destination for speckled trout and it’s no surprise. The state record for speckled trout was caught here and weighed in at more than 17 pounds. The best part about fishing for specks here is the fact that there is a large quantity of fish in this size range. It’s not uncommon for someone to simply stumble upon one without even chasing it down. 

The reason for this is the ecosystem. It’s prime territory for speckled trout because of the grassy beds and mangroves that attract tons of shrimp and mullet which is exactly what the speckled trout want to feed on. It makes it really easy to blend in and with the right presentation and lure you should have no problem being able to attract them to you too. 

Locals suggest getting to the river early or right before dusk when you have an overcast sky. These are the ideal trout fishing conditions. They recommend light spinning tackle here as well and prepare for a fight when you hook one. 

Tarpon 

This wouldn’t be a Florida fishing guide without talking about Tarpon. This river is like a tarpon highway and they just fly up and down the river. The silver king is a hard-fighting, challenging, and acrobatic fish that inhabits the water year-round so you don’t have to time your trip that carefully if this is the species you’re after.

The locals recommend fishing Ponce Inlet during the summer months though if you’re really after some Tarpon. You might want to size up your tackle a little bit because tarpon put up quite a fight and they’re not the easiest fish to get into the boat unless you’ve got the right line and rod on your side.

Top Indian River Fishing Spots

Indian River fishing near New Smyrna Beach

Now that you have an idea of what kind of fish you’ll catch, you’ll need to get a little more specific on where you want to fish. Keep in mind that this river is huge so don’t expect to drop in on very many of these locations because the river stretches down a large portion of the east coast of Florida. 

New Smyrna Beach 

If you want to start at the top and attempt to work your way down, New Smyrna Beach is where you’ll start. It’s the northernmost section of the river and there are plenty of ways for you to access it. Here you’ll find some of the largest redfish and plenty of sea trout as well. If you’re looking for a New Smyrna Beach fishing charter, this is where you’ll want to look as well.

Titusville 

Working our way down, the next stop on the river is Titusville. It’s the ideal shallow water location and it’s right across the way from the Kennedy Space Center. If you find the Causeway Bridge you know you’ve found the best place on the water for Tarpon and Snook. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to catch a rocket launch, plan accordingly! 

Melbourne 

Melbourne is home to great Indian River Lagoon fishing because it offers great shallow water opportunities for kayak anglers. There are plenty of locations to rent a kayak from if you didn’t bring your own as well. Not to mention the fact that the water is saturated with huge redfish and speckled trout. If you’re looking for the spot with the highest concentration of large fish, Melbourne is the stop you won’t want to miss. 

Sebastian 

If you’re planning a trip around the fall, Sebastian is the place you want to go. The mullet run happens between September and October and it’s a beautiful thing to see. Not to mention the fact that the snook and redfish will be chasing down the mullet so it brings upon some excellent fishing opportunities as well. 

Vero Beach 

Fly anglers, hold onto your hat because Vero Beach is the spot for you. There are hundreds of places for you to wade and find incredibly productive snook and redfish angling. There are not quite as many places to launch a boat if that’s your game but MacWilliam Park is one of them and there are many great activities for the whole family here.

Indian River Fishing: How to Do It

Chartering a boat for Indian river fishing

The last choice you have to make is how you plan to tackle these brackish waters. You’ve got a few choices but we always recommend one for certain. 

Charter a Boat 

We suggest chartering whenever you can, especially if you’re not familiar with the area. There are great Florida fishing charters dotted up and down the Indian River in places like New Smyrna Beach, Melbourne, Cocoa Beach, and more. 

Fishing alongside a captain is always a great way to go because you don’t have to worry about bringing gear, you can piggyback off their knowledge, and they’ll make sure you catch something. In fact, many fishing charters have a “catch” guarantee otherwise you get a portion or all of your money back. If you’re really looking to create a unique experience, we highly suggest chartering a boat. 

Wading 

Few things in this world compare to the feeling of wade fishing on the Indian River. It allows you to get up close and personal with the ecosystem and target exactly where you want to fish. The big advantage is that you don’t need anything other than your rod and reel. If you’re traveling light or roughing it “nomad style” all you need to do is grab your waders and get in the river. 

Most of the places that local anglers recommend are around bridges that run over the river. These are ideal locations but you’ll want to look out for overhanging trees, mangroves, and tall grassy areas as well. Just be careful and watch out for private property signs. 

Kayaking 

This is the epitome of Indian River Florida fishing. If you want to immerse yourself in the wildlife, kayaking is a great way to do so. It allows you to navigate the water gently so you don’t scare the fish away but you also get to target specific locations because a kayak will permit access to much shallower water than most boats. 

If you’ve kayak fished before, this won’t be as challenging for you but you’ll want to make sure you have a plan before hitting the water. If you’re new to it, you might want to look for a kayak guided fishing trip because kayak fishing requires a lot more strength, conditioning, and experience than you think. 

Final Thoughts 

If the trophy-sized redfish and exceptional ecosystem didn’t sell you, you’ll want to try Indian River fishing simply for the beautiful and majestic scenery. They don’t call this area the Treasure Coast for nothing. The Indian River offers some of the greatest fishing on the East Coast and we think it should be on every serious angler’s bucket list.

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