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Banana River Bombing Target photograph

Banana River WWII Bombing Target

An Inshore Smorgasbord of Sandbar and Shallow Water Fishing Areas

Friday June 22, 2018

One of the more prominent features on the Banana River near Cape Canaveral is a WWII relict simply referred to as "The Bombing Target", which provides structure for fish, and a great visual marker in the lagoon.  During the height of World War II,  American fighter pilots trained on the Banana River and northward towards the Indian River Lagoon dropping non-live ordinance on these makeshift targets made of large steel plates or steel girders formed in a circle approximately fifty feet in diameter. These historical targets have become well known to boaters and anglers that frequent these fertile waters in pursuit of game fish.

Directly east of the Bombing target in the shallow Banana River, lies a sandbar with a wide grass flat beyond and stretching to the shoreline. There's plenty of seasonal fishing for the angler for both redfish and spotted sea trout but for the crafty anglers there's also snook and tarpon.  Vast manatee zones protect some of the best angling opportunities in this area and keep boaters from speeding over and around many of the area's best fishing grounds.

Fishing on the Banana River lagoon

Visual Aides on the water have traditionally been a fisherman's friend, but since the advent of the GPS or Loran-C many anglers have become dependent on their electronics. The "bombing target" in the Banana River has always been a great aid in navigating the shallow water lagoon and is a great reference point for boaters to beware of the shallow water.  It poses no real navigation threat as the area is strictly enforced and well marked as a "no wake" zone and boaters. Fishing the bombing target area involves little more than a shallow water boat and some patience for the dedicated angler. "You can't learn any body of water in one day", explains Captain Richard, "It takes a few years to learn the territory and productive seasons for each species. The Banana River has more volume than the Mosquito Lagoon to the north as it's 24 miles of from north to south and over three miles in width in many areas. The restricted areas in the Northern end of the Banana River include the famous No Motor Zone and the more restricted waters north of the NASA Causeway that has not been fished in almost 60 years as it's earnestly patrolled and monitored by Canaveral Air force Station and NASA security forces.

The Central part of the Banana River between SR 528 and SR 520 and southward towards the Pineda Causeway is bordered by several small beach communities but mainly Cocoa Beach on it's east and west towards Merritt Island. There are three main boat ramps on the Banana River with Kelly Park being to the north, Bicentennial Park in the Center and Ramp Road in the Thousand Island Area. There is a local ramp at Kiwanis Island in the Sykes Creek or Newfound Harbor area of the Banana River too, that provides a more urban entrance to the lagoon as it's snuggled near many of Merritt Island's more populated areas and near Wal-Mart and Merritt Square Mall. The south end of the Banana River Lagoon ends at the Mather's Bridge and is punctuated with Dragon Point.

Naval Air Station Banana River

Japanese Zeros over Cocoa Beach during an Airshow.According to our research the Naval Air Station Banana River was deactivated as a naval installation in 1947 and placed in a caretaker status before being transferred to the United States Air Force on September 1, 1948 and renamed the Joint Long Range Proving Ground on June 10, 1949.  The installation was renamed Patrick Air Force Base in August 1950 and is currently an active Air Force installation.

The official opening of the Banana River Naval Air Station and it's commencement was in October of 1941 and it was during the next few years of WWII that the Banana River Bombing targets would be built and utilized for training Navy Pilots that patrolled the coastline of Florida. One of the Navy Sea Planes would perish looking for the famous Flight 19 out of Ft. Lauderdale in the coming decade, thus starting the rumors of the dreaded "Devil's or Bermuda Triangle".

Banana River RedfishAccording to historians, the pace of growth from 1941 at NAS Banana River increased with the addition of pilot training programs. Practice bombing ranges were set up north of the base on Cape Canaveral and bombing runs began in October. Concerned that an interested public would attempt to watch the training, the base issued public statements warning the people of Brevard to stay away from the area. The training kept many of the men busy and provided for some excitement and entertainment. It was during these beginning years in Brevard County that the Banana River Bombing targets were built and used for training WWII pilots and presently we simply motor or drift by them on our way to rich fishing grounds while many ask... "What are those circular shaped structures for?" Well... now you know, and are well informed about those years of growth in Cocoa Beach, the Banana River and it's surrounding waterways that helped established it as the "Sea Trout Capital of the World" and the rest is history.  From our humble beginnings till our modern Patrick Air Force Base, Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center, Brevard County has been the launching location for sea planes, Apollo Rockets sending men to the moon and flats boats sending anglers to the Banana River.

The angler on the left caught this remarkable Banana River redfish near an old Bombing target on a calm winter day with Captain Richard Bradley while on a fishing charter. Red fish are often abundant between the cold fronts during our mild Florida winters and you can bet that you'll catch some nice ones if conditions cooperate.

Several bombing targets were constructed during WWII in the adjacent lagoons near the Banana River Naval Station in 1942 for training purposes.

Published by: Captain of Lagooner Fishing Guides©

Author Captain Richard Bradley

Captain Richard Bradley is the author and contributor for many of the articles written on the Lagooner website. Richard is a professional fishing guide, taking anglers in his native waters near the Banana and Mosquito Lagoons on Florida's central east coast almost three hundred trips seasonally. When not charter fishing, Captain Richard enjoys time with his family surfing, fishing, camping and various other outdoor activities.

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