Places to Fish
The Nassau Sport Fishing Association will hold the 30th Annual "Nassau Sport Fishing Association Kingfish Tournament & Fishing Rodeo", on August 3-4. The popular event will be held from the Fernandina Harbor in historic downtown Fernandina.
The family orientated fishing competition will get underway with a mandatory Captain's Meeting on Friday, August 3rd. Fishermen and guests will be treated to a delicious barbecue, with tournament tee shirts and hats for sale. After the meeting, "Sounds on Centre" will showcase music and good times on Centre Street.
The top prize in the tournament is $10,000 cash based on 100 boats. Additional "Fishing Rodeo" winners will be paid up to $1,000 per specie, including five inshore species and five offshore species of game fish. For more information, contact Tournament Director Joe Wise at (904) 415-1927 or visit www.fishnsfa.com. This event benefits educational programming, college scholarships, reef projects and youth programming. The Nassau Sport Fishing Association is a 501c3 charity organization.
Without a doubt, Amelia Island's summer fishing season is the best time of year to enjoy one of America's favorite pastimes - fishing! Anglers will find numerous fishing opportunities beginning with catching freshwater bass in less than 12 inches of water with a surface plug during the first few minutes of daylight, to high speed trolling for blue marlin from water depths that sharply drop off from 100 to 1,000 feet.
trout 11 ron stallings_fmt.jpegHowever, you just can't beat live bait trolling along the pristine beaches of Amelia Island during the high flood tide, where kingfish weighing to 40 pounds typically feed on large pods of menhaden. Some of the best beach king fishing comes at the southern tip of Amelia Island, where a hard live bottom attracts a variety of baitfish. Live bait trolling with a variety of baits including menhaden, blue runners and mullet can promote exciting kingfish strikes. Dead baits such as rigged ballyhoo, silver mullet or ribbonfish are also deadly baits when trolling along Amelia's sandy beaches. Summer king mackerel are extremely fun fish to catch, frequently emptying a mackerel reel within seconds of their strike!
Live and dead bait trolling along the beaches will also produce such game fish as pelagic sharks, cobia, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jack crevalle and the occasional barracuda.
Chumming from an anchored or drifting boat is also productive for kingfish, tarpon, cobia, jack crevalle and a variety of pelagic sharks including the exciting "Spinner" sharks. Once hooked, 50 to 100-lb. spinner sharks will come spinning from the water in a wild aerial display, then take off on a hundred-yard, thumb-burning run.
Inlet fishing at both the Nassau and St. Mary's inlets during the good old summertime is best for tarpon weighing to 150 pounds, cobia, red drum, black drum, kingfish and sharks. During last summer's fishing season, local saltwater guides Captain Danny Flynn and Captain Allen Mills both hooked their clients up to tarpon that tested the 200-pound mark. TV personality Roland Martin once hooked and released a 194-lb. tarpon while filming a fishing show at Amelia Island.
Fishing along the St. Mary's jetty rocks during the slow-moving tide produces a grab bag catch of flounder, redfish, puppy drum, sea trout, whiting and delicious eating sheepshead. Working a 1/2-oz. led head jig and live shrimp slowly along the deep edges of the jetty rocks is key for many of these excellent-eating species. When live shrimp are not available, thread a 3-inch Berkley Gulp shrimp tail onto a 1/2-oz. led head jig and hang on! Sheepshead frequently takes a live fiddler crab barbed to a #1 kahle hook. Pinch a large split shot weight just above the hook so that the live fiddler crab sinks slowly down along the rocks.
Amelia Island deep sea fishermen have plenty of options during the warm summer fishing season where gag grouper and cobia showcase wreck, live bottom and rock ledge fishing. Most deep sea boats will anchor or drift directly over the bottom structure while fishing right on the bottom with live cigar minnows, pinfish, mullet or menhaden. 50-lb. fishing tackle is recommended when hooking giant reef fish and reeling them up and away from the dangers of the deep water structure.
Live bait trolling offshore is also exciting during the summer. Here, a variety of striking fish including Atlantic sailfish, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, dolphin, wahoo, blackfin tuna, cobia, barracuda and amberjack will produce an exciting battle.
One of the more productive offshore fish spots includes FA fish haven, which is located only eight miles offshore of the St. Mary's jetty rocks. FA fish haven includes several large areas of hard bottoms, paired with lime rock ledges and sunken wrecks. The "FA Barge" almost always holds rod-bending game fish. Other popular offshore fish havens include FB, FC, HH, the Nassau Bottom and AH reefs. All of these popular fishing waters are marked with GPS coordinates on the local offshore fishing charts.
Be sure to visit your favorite local bait and tackle store before fishing offshore for the latest information and baits that will make your day of deep water fishing a success. Fishermen can go online to www.floridasportsman.com and find recent fishing reports, as well. Also, be sure and read my weekly outdoor column in the "News Leader," which appears every Wednesday.
The "Continental Shelf" is located some 65 nautical miles offshore of Amelia Island. Dolphin fishing is excellent here during the summer months. Look for the large expanses of floating sargassum weed lines to hold dolphin weighing to 50 pounds. Trolling with 50-lb. tackle rigged with ballyhoo or combinations of ballyhoo and plastic lures are key. Blue water fishermen can also expect to catch blackfin tuna, wahoo, sailfish and the occasional blue marlin.
Be sure to check local weather forecasts before your planned day of blue water fishing, as afternoon thunderstorms can create rough seas and a wet ride back to your home port. Also, make sure that you let someone know where you will be fishing and when you plan on returning.
Backwater fishing for redfish and sea trout is excellent during the warm summer season. This is the best time of year to target both redfish and sea trout with surface lures, especially when the water temperature has warmed up into the low 80's.
However, tides and water clarity become major factors when targeting Northeast Florida's trout and redfish. By far the best tide is a high in-coming tide that arrives just after sunrise. Here, clear water conditions allow both redfish and sea trout to easily locate your surface plug. The high falling tide also offers excellent topwater opportunities as baitfish begin to fall out of flooded spartina marshes onto nearby shallow mud flats.
king 11 ns mathew farl_fmt.jpegAnother key factor when targeting topwater trout and reds is the availability of baitfish. Look for schooling menhaden, mullet and glass minnows, and you will be sure to find trout and redfish nearby. I can safely say with the lack of baitfish, you would be much better off cranking up your big motor and exploring new waters.
Once you have located both numerous schools of bait fish and clean water, look for ambush points where baitfish are migrating past a marsh point, the mouth of a feeder creek, through a deep slough, or past the deep side of an oyster bar. Cast your surface lure up tide of the ambush point, working it slowly past the ambush point and hang on!
Sea trout will frequently come up from under your surface lure during the strike, while redfish will often poke their head out of the water and come crashing down on your surface plug. In both cases, patience in setting the hooks of your surface plug is critical. Many skilled topwater fishermen will actually wait until they feel the pressure of the hooked fish on their rod tip before setting the hooks. Setting the hooks too soon will often result in pulling the plug away from the foraging red or trout.
Some of the more productive surface plugs include the Storm "Chug Bug", Heddon "Zara Spook", Bomber "Badonk-A-Donk", Rapala "Skitter Walk" and the traditional Smithwick "Devil's Horse". Best color patterns include, black back/white belly, red head/white body or chartreuse back/white belly. Finally, work your surface plugs slowly while producing a lot of noise!
Summer surf fishing along Amelia Island beaches produces catches of pompano, whiting, puppy drum, sea trout, redfish, flounder, bluefish and more. Fishing on the bottom with fresh shrimp, live sand fleas, cut pieces of blue crab or fresh squid is key. Best tide includes the last of the in-coming and all of the falling tide. Look for some of the best surf fishing action to come from where waves are breaking over shallow bars in the surf, or where run outs have created a deep nearby slough.
Non-Florida residents 16 and older will need to purchase a Florida non-resident saltwater fishing license when fishing from shore, piers, bridges and from a boat. This also includes crabbing. For more fishing and charter information, call Amelia Angler Outfitters, 111 Centre St., (904) 261-2870.