Many pelagic species are returning in April. Spanish Mackerel, Jack Crevale, bluefish, & ladyfish can start to show up as water temps climb and mullet & various baits start to return to North Fla. Waters. Also a good time for a gator trout. Even though numbers of trout over 5lbs (gator) has declined in years past. my logs show over the last 20 years many gators have been taken in April. I like the last of the incoming & first of the out going tide. My anglers focus on points and rips with current flow & bait. I like to through my presentation up current & retrieve it back. Trout face into the current waiting for a meal. Always bring your bait or lure into the face of the fish. Bringing up the rear of the fish normally results in spooking unless in a frenzy. Top waters, lipped divers & bait imitating lures will take there share of fish this month. Area inlets & jetties will be a good place to start. Redfish will continue to be caught in area backcountry tributaries. As water heats up & baits continues to fill our areas, redfish schools will be broken up and be on the move to score some some of the tasty morsels! If you are a jetty fisherman, soaking a blue crab or shrimp could result in an big Black drum. Some fish can run upwards of 50lbs so use tackle to handle them, & release them to keep our stock heathy!! Get out & enjoy the great outdoors, it all go’s to fast!!! 🐟
March the water starts to heat up on a regular basis. I often refer to March as the "transitional" month. Depending on exact temperatures or a freak cold snap, the water starts to heat and brings the migratory bait back. This is the opposite of Oct. / Nov. mullet run when all the bait migrates south. As the bait returns and enters the St. John's river and tributaries, redfish, trout, and bluefish will be there to get there share. In the past, temperature depended, I have seen Jack Crevalle show up at the end of March. Ladyfish and Spanish Mackerel will be very close behind them as well!! This is a great time to incorporate throughing lures on your trip. Work the tides to your favor. North in the St. Johns river will hold alot of these species around this time. Tide rips around points and structure will be the ticket. Often, as the water hovers the 65 degree mark and above, I have had some nice success on topwater and diving plugs for all the species mentioned. Last March, We had some big quality game fish crushing the plugs!! All great memories and awesome fishing!! As you catch your redfish and trout, don't forget you will have alot of bluefish strikes as well to keep the action going. I have had days where you can catch them on every cast. Great time to break out the fly rod and have some fun. Use a fluorocarbon leader and a gummy minnow and you will catch a blue! They will eat through the leader, however, you get more strikes on the fluorocarbon than wire. If you use a small wire bite
tippit, tie to the wire with an Albright special knot, and use no terminal tackle. It can be a windy month so plan your trips accordingly. Try to put yourself in the lee or use downwind casts. Give yourself the advantage because it is so important to be "in tune" with your bait. Know what that bait is doing at all times. The backcountry waters will still be clear and redfish will be lurking the mud flats. It will most likely be the last month for sight fishing cruising redfish as the water will begin to get muddy and murky, however, blind casting and soaking jig mud minnows / shrimp combo's in the shallow around oyster bars can still pay big dividends!! Good chance at a sheephead, or a black drum, as well. Alot going on this month, get out and enjoy some action on the waters of North Florida!!
January water is at some of the clearest times of the year and site fishing and Redfish can be at an all-time high. I like to fish the last couple hours of the outgoing tide on days where we have high pressure low winds and a lot of sunshine. If you can get the last couple hours of the tide between 11 and 3 o’clock in the afternoon you can generally see very well through the water with quality polarize sunglasses. I like to pole the edge of mud flats or oyster bars where fish will be very shallow in schools or you may catch a backing fish. I fish a black TBS bucktail or a dark colored weedless soft plastic if I am in heavy shell. I like the dark bucktail, when they are wet they throw very accurate and far. Staying far from the fish, Helps to ensure you will not spook him. Many people are too loud and rough in the boat and these fish will not eat when you make your presentation because they are aware of your presence. I like to pick a fish make one long cast, about 3 to 4 feet in the fishes path . Remember, your first cast in any situation for fish is going to be your best. My two favorite Lures for this is my black TBS bucktail or a dark colored weedless soft plastic. The bucktail is my first choice as when it’s wet it cast far & accurate and land soft, and with the slightest movement the undulating hair looks very alive and you usually get the strike. If I know I’m going to be fishing in heavy shell on top of oysters or weeds etc., I will then go to a dark colored soft plastic. I do not try to use a lot of different type lures. These are the two lures that I go to in over 20 years of guiding, they have by far been my two most successful Baits, especially if you learn to use both properly. When the fish approaches the lure, a very subtle bump or twitch usually gets the strike!! Bait fisherman, will have the same results throwing shrimp or mudminnows on the latest jig you can get away with. I normally throw an eight to quarter round TBS black nickel jig and I find that to be absolutely adequate for sticking big fish!!! A couple key pointers to be successful on site fishing is fish Leeward side of islands and shorelines, make sure the sun is up in the sky high so you can see through the water, and a good pair of polarized glasses with an accurate casting rod. I generally use a 7 foot medium heavy spinning rod with 15 pound braid and a 15- 20lb fluorocarbon leader and a loop not of some sort connecting your jig head. I like to use a Bowline knot. Fluorocarbon is best because it is abrasion resistant and it does not reflect light so it makes the presentation the best. Use a 30 inch piece for best results including casting. Too long of a leader could possibly hinder your Cast remember we want this outfit to cash 30 to 40 yards if needed most times Cast will be 15 to 30 feet. OK get out and fish winter time is wonderful back country red fishing. I don’t talk about too many other fish because I mainly Hunt Redfish at this time of the year however Fishing shrimp around the same places of the redfish you’ll catch black drum trout sheep head and an occasional flounder. Do not let the cold weather for you, get out and get some of this excellent back country action!!
December mornings may be cool, however, great month for backcountry red fishing. Best to get out on a mid day outgoing tide. As fish get pulled from the high tide grass, they will take residence in areas where you can reach they by boat. Often on the edges of Oyster bars, Creek depressions, holes, etc. They can be very shallow. That’s where a shallow skiff comes in handy resulting in more accessible areas to fish for them. Many times a legal redfish can sustain in 6-10 inches of water. Don’t think for a second that a 30 inch redfish cannot do the same. They will lay in these areas that I call “staging areas”
and wait to ride the incoming tide back to other desired areas. Also very important, know your tides. When you look at the the tides, there is usually a small number next to it. It may be 0.1-9 or -0.1-9. If the number doesn’t have a negative next to it, that means it’s going to be that many inches above mean low water. Example: .06,
Means it will be 6 inches higher than normal. If it has -0.6, it will be six inches lower than normal. If you are in a skiff that floats in 6 inches of water, this can make a big difference in where you are able to fish, and more importantly where the fish can “stage“ at. Balance this with the wind. If it blows anything from the east, , it keeps the water in the marsh, and if it blows from the west, it helps to push water out of the marsh. That is why when we have big north east winds, many anglers head to the flooded grass to fish for tailors in the spartina grass. Over all, it’s best to locate several staging areas like I explained.
For lure anglers, best lures I have found is a weedless soft plastic in a dark color, or a black bucktail in 1/8-1/4 oz. often times this imitates a fiddler crab, one of the top baits of the winter time redfish. Work the baits with low hops across the bottom. If you are site fishing lead the fish 4 ft when fish approach’s bump the lure very subtle. Bait fisherman, use a 1/4 oz jig and shrimp combo. Often times you can pick up a black drum, or sheephead. If I am only fishing for reds, I like using mud minnows however, they usually don’t work as well for the drum & sheephead. Good luck, see you on the water! 🐟
My recommendations are fish early or the evenings. Plan your tides so you can fish accordingly to the species you are after. If you are fishing Redfish in the backcountry, and want a shot at a backing fish, I would be out early on a low tide, once the wind and sun are up, your chances diminish. Standard jig and bait combos, weedless soft plastics, and bucktail jigs are all great choices. If the water is high work top waters, popping corks with a shrimp or spoons / spinners in and along the grasslines and over structure/ shell bars. All these methods are affective, but, time of the day is important. There are many different species around now. The river and Intercostal waterway will give up there fair share of fish. Again, get out early with above mentioned baits, Focus on points, structure, and shell bars. Any of these type areas with moving water, bait and especially next to deeper water is a potential hot spot. My clients have produced some nice trophy trout & other great species!! Stay confident and attentive, paying attention & reading the water, tide direction, looking at birds behavior, height of tides, it all plays a part. Plenty of other species will be lurking these areas also. Ladyfish, jacks and blues will continue to keep a bend in fisherman rods. All of these species are not picky when it comes to lures or bait, they are fun to catch and will put up a great fight. Also an awesome time to get out and introduce our young anglers to fishing. The wait is not long when they are there!! A bobber and a piece of 20lb leader and a jig & shrimp. It is a fun time! Also, nearshore beach fishing can be good. Follow the pogie pods up & down the beach. Cast net some & pitching a hooked pogie to the edges Of the bait pod on a jig or just plain hook can be a ticket to a big jack, shark, tarpon, redfish, etc. Keeping them alive is best. Get on the side they are moving & be patient / quiet and let the pod come to you. Throwing baits behind the shrimp boats can also be a good way to hookup. Dock light fishing will be on the rise as water temps continue to heat up. All species mentioned can be caught. A free lined live shrimp is a sure way to get a hook up. However, a DOA shrimp, can be very effective. The Flounder bite is continuing to pick up hitting jigs with finger mullet, shrimp, and mud minnow combo's. Standard dock and structure fishing and grass lines with current prove best. As the heat of the sun gets hot and overhead, fish deeper. Many species get a little lethargic and often times will retreat to the deeper cooler water to elude the mid day sun. Get out and enjoy the fishing, there is something going on all the time!! Take advantage!!
March is a transitional month, where water temps are on the rise bringing bait back to NE Florida & pelagic fish.
Depending on the exact temperatures, we can see Jacks, Spanish Mackerel, Lady Fish, & Bluefish. Lures, like lipped divers, top waters, & spoons are all good picks. Float rigs & jig & bait combos work well if you fish bait. Most of your area inlets will be holding these species. Eddies coming around structure, points, or shell bars with current & bait can be a potentially good spot. As the water warms & nears the 65-70 degrees, we should start to see bigger Trout in these areas also. I like to cover water & hit many places with these attributes. Don’t forget to log your catch & spots, so you can learn your area better. It will help later down the road. Of course, with the water temperature still cool, back country Red fishing will still be doing well. Sight fishing will end as all the Mullet enter the mud flats, micro organisms regain traction, and the waters begin to lose clarity. Poking the edges of these flats can produce some quality slot Reds. As you heard me talk before, use the lightest TBS Jig you can paired with a shrimp or mud minnow, and a 30 inch piece of 15-20 lb fluorocarbon with any type of loop knot to the jig...Very important, freedom of movement.
My Black Bucktail can produce some beauties as well! Lead the fish and small low hops when the fish passes. Great fiddler crab bait that cast accurate and Redfish love them!!
July can be a hot month with water temps high and fish moving to cooler waters. More of your action will result in the early morning and evenings. I like to fish from 5:30 - 6:00 am to about 10:00-10:30. Most of the better bites will come in that time. Especially if you are a lure fisherman. Fishing docks lights at night can very productive with a DOA shrimp. However, you can still catch a good fish in the afternoon sun. It can definitely happen, and it's happened more than once, but, it's a good idea to find some incoming cooler water and fish deeper as the sun climbs. Also a great time to take advantage of the calm still summer mornings with a top water plug. Some good ones include Rapala skitterwalks, Mirro Lure Top Dogs, and BiteaBaits Top walker. All these lures worked with a "walk the dog" action can produce vicious strikes from Redfish, Trout, and all the species that feed on swimming bait. The reason fish hit these style baits in low light is it is easier for fish to look up with no sun blinding them and they can focus on the bait. Harsh sun rays beating down on you is the same thing fish feel. When you move to shade, they will move to deeper water or seek out the cooler temperatures. Moving water will help as well. Most of your traditional methods of fishing will stay the same, but, time of day is important. If your tide is low in the early morning, I would look for backing fish in the shallows, and if the tide is high, I would fish grass lines and over structures and ledges. If you have moving water, bait, and early or evening times, you are in a good situation for success. Beach / jetty fisherman should have a good month with many of the conditions be recognized in these areas. Lady fish, Jacks, blues and mangrove snappers are not as effected by the sunshine as much as other species. So if you want to bend a rod, these species are fairly reliable. Tarpon will be lurking in specific areas, such as deeper holes in creeks, jetties, inlets, areas along the beach, river and areas holding bait. Tarpon are funny, they may come back to a place you found them last year or they can hold up in a totally new area? You have to look and pay attention when out on your trip. If you find them, entice them with a live mullet on a High Seas Fluorocarbon leader. Use the lightest you can get away with for more strikes. Flounder are still showing more and more and will peak in Oct. Typical fish finder rig in structure and moving current along grass lines with bait are good areas. A finger mullet tipped TBS Black Nickel jig working the same type areas is another good bet. Cast out and maintain a tight and "intune" line. Let the bait stay for awhile and slowly retrieve the bait. When you get that "thump" give a couple seconds and come tight and set the hook. Maintain constant pressure and get the net, Flounder come off the hook often! Docks in the Mayport are always a big fish producer. The bigger bull redfish will also be on the rise, soaking crabs, mullet, and cut ladyfish on a fish finder rig, along the St. Johns river channel can be a ticket. Anchor so you are on the ledges of the channel. A big bait on a 3/0 or 4/0 hook and as much weight to just do the job will get results. I totally believe in Fluorocarbon, so I would rig my fish finder rig with it. Remember to resuscitate your fish. Often, those bull reds are extremely exhausted after a brutal battle and they need that. Get out and experience some of North Florida's fishing and enjoy this great place!!
June is hot weather fishing, I prefer to get out very early and if I can't I will fish the evening around sunset. Evening fishing you will have to have your guard up due to thundershowers & wind, so early is best. If you do fish the afternoons most of the time It can be productive fishing bait in the deeper areas and edges of channels for the bull Reds. A simple fish finder rig with an 8/0 J hook or a 12/0 circle (preferred) and a wreck anchor, you are ready. Large chucks of mullet or ladyfish will be a ticket for a hook up. you will have to move around on different tides to locate your fish. Also baiting sharks in the local sounds can be productive. Basically the same thing, however, a piece of wire is used to attack the hook to prevent cutoffs. If that doesn't interest you, I would get out early and throw top water plugs and divers for Reds, trout and other fun species such as Jack's ladyfish etc. I work areas such as ledges, structure, grass lines, and points. Certain bulkheads holding bait can be productive As well. If you find any of these areas holding good concentration of finger mullet or pogies this can be a potential hotspot , throw your lures up current and bring your lures back with the current naturally. If you know fish are there, be patient and throw long shots to keep the fish unaware of your presence, which is another key to success!! Most common lures are a bet, there are NO secret lures.... work the ones you have had success with and know how to work very well.
" Walk the dog" method of retrieve for top waters. Sweep and pump pause for lipped divers and crank baits. Continue to look for
areas of concentrated bait.
Flounder will be in the mix and like most of the same areas, however structure such as rocks and dock pilings are a good choice. A TBS jig paired with a finger mullet, mud minnow, or shrimp can be successful. If you like lure fishing flounder, fish the jig with a gulp bait working it across the bottom until you feel the thump. Also a bucktail jig tipped with a bait can be deadly. One day fishing a ledge slowly hopping my bucktail across the bottom I was rewarded with 22 flounder!!! What a great day. Until next month, tight lines.
May is a great month for fishing Trout & many of the migrating species. Past years in May Will Felner, on his first cast which can be your best shot, caught a 29 inch / 91/2 lb trout!!! Great job to Will!! Artificial's can be a great bet for all saltwater species at this time. We should be seeing all the pelagic's around in full swing. The fun fish Jacks, Ladyfish, Spanish mackerel,bluefish and maybe a Tarpon. Anglers who enjoy Topwater fishing, this can be a great time as well to get an explosive strike!! Jacks, blues & ladyfish, Not always everybody's favorite catch, however it makes for some great action for lure fisherman and it keeps you in tune!! They take a wide variety of flys as well. Gummy minnows and poppers can be fun! These species are the ones that can be caught while fishing Redfish and Trout and more desirable fish. Remember, fish are fish, if one fish likes that area other fish will seek interest as well. You have to get out and fish and take note what tide, conditions etc. Many times when blues are in an area, Trout are close by. Standard slip float, Jig and bait combo's and lures all work well for these tasty trout, Remember as the water warms with summer like temps, start your days very early and use the tides to your advantage. if its low early look for backing reds in the shallows. If the tide is higher and incoming, look to through lures for trout and fun fish? Give yourself a good reason to do what you plan?There will be some big trout taken this month, remember to be a good conservationist and let the big ones go, the 15 - 20 inch are your best table fare. Lures and bait along grass lines in the back country can produce a redfish if you really want one. I try and do what produces best at the time I am going to fish. Many times areas will also give up some big redfish while trying to fish for trout. Often times different species will share the same areas and give up some action. Flounder will be in the bag and around as a bonus and should steadily pick up as the summer progresses. spinner baits and spoons slow rolled along grass lines and structure are a sure bet. A TBS jig combined with a mud minnow or finger mullet fished in the same area can produce. Remember to focus on moving water, bait and some sort of structure. A lot of different species are out and about, get out and get some action!!
Capt. Tony's expert insight on what you should look for on the water and how to get the most out of the current fishing season.