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!!
Trout, trout, and more trout! This is a great month to bag a big one. Months past, April has produced some of the biggest trout to include fish as big as 11lbs!! Whether your a float fisherman, plug, topwater or jig, big trout will be on the prowl looking for a meal. They can be caught with any of these methods. Fish get very active with the warming, but, comfortable water temps. Bait will be reentering North Florida, and as it does it will keep the fish active!! Fishing places that have current, shallow next to deeper, structure and bait will be an ideal place to start your search? But, places like these hold fish. There will a nice mix of blues in the area. Very fun, and lots of action. however, I take advantage of what mother nature has to offer? Years past, I had a day with blues to 10 lbs on inshore waters!! What a fight on light tackle!! Any angler would of loved it!! There will be other fish joining the party. Redfish, Jack Crevalles, Spanish mackerel, Ladyfish, will be in the mix, especially if the water temps stay up. Plugs and lures that have been productive include, Rapalas, x raps, twichin raps, and skitterwalks. In the Miro-lures line, mirro dynes and top dogs, and also the BiteABait line, fighters and top walkers. Colors are simple, if the water is clean and clear, I like to use natural colors. If the water is dirty or stained, use a white or chartreuse. Keep it simple. The same go's for jigs. Just use enough weight to get down and stay in tune with the bait.These are all fine baits in the hands of an angler that has mastered how to work them? If the backcountry is your style, there will be some redfish prowling around. Schools will be smaller and start breaking up with the warmer water. This will be the very last of the clear water and sight fishing this month. As the bait returns to the backcountry, the water will get cloudy and muddy as all the mullet and micro-organism start to replenish. Flounder will start showing up more as time go's on. Any structure with bait and moving water can be a hot spot. I like the incoming tide. Fish a TBS jig in a bright color combined with a finger mullet or mud minnow. Fish slow and be in tune with your bait When you get a bite, reel the slack out and set the hook.
March is a transitional month, and water temperatures start rising and many species start to return to our waters.Trout bite starts to heat up and species like bluefish, Jack Crevalle, and Spanish Mackerel will show up if the cold dissipates as normal years past. Bait , like mullet and pogies, start to return as well. Baitfish imitations such as Rapalas, BiteABaits, Mirro lures and High roller rippers all work well. Lures will start to take there fair share in the creek mouths and river. Top waters will produce well. "Walk the dog method" are best. Pay attention to the weather temps and bait. But, it is the start! Redfish will continue to be caught in the backcountry creeks and shallow mud flats as fish are still enjoying the mid - day warmth of the flats. Mud minnow, crabs and shrimp are still top choice's on a TBS black nickel jig. Use as little terminal tackle as possible and a 30 inch piece of Fluorocarbon (15 - 20lb) with as light of a jig as you can effectively get away with. There will still be plenty of shallow water Redfish and the water is genrally still clear. Spoons, spinners, topwaters and shallow running plugs along the grass lines at high tides will also do well. If the water is still cool make sure to retrieve the lure slowly. Black drum will still be taken on bait in the backcountry as well. Jig & shrimp combos will be the most effective. some of the big Black drum will be moving into the jetties for there spawn and a crab or clam on a fish finder rig and heavier tackle will be the best bet for a trophy. Please catch and release them. Don't forget spring Turkey season!!!
Although we are limited what we can fish for, February can be great for shallow water red fishing. Backcountry waters of North Fl. can be at its clearest point of the year. Mid afternoons on the mud flats when the wind and sun cooperate, can be very productive. Mud minnows & shrimp paired with the lightest TBS Jig fishing around mid to the last of the outgoing tide around the rips coming off the oyster bars can be outstanding. Through up current and stay in tune with your bait as it may roll with the tidal movement. Polling at this time can also be very productive. Slipping up on a backing or tailing redfish, again, mid day when suns overhead and wind minimal, can be a great experience. Fly anglers can take advantage of this time of year as well. Many times you may have a shot at a tasty Sheephead or Black Drum. Shrimp is a good choice and they will be in these areas. Anglers wanting trout should start out soaking shrimp/ Muds in some of the deeper holes and bends of creeks with moving water for best results. Many trout will be below the 15 inch minimum. If the standard float rigs is not your style, through a bright colored soft plastic and slow roll, keeping in contact, on the bottom. Reds Blues and flounder can be in the mix. Dress warm and fish!!
July is a very hot month and fishing should be done very early or late into the evening for the best catches. Fish are more active at these times. Although there are exceptions, like Mary Beth Williams catching a trophy 8lb gator trout with me in the hot mid day sun on a BiteABait Fighter!! " Congrats Mary Beth." Not common, however, we do get them occasionally. I like to fish the clean cooler incoming water for trout. Best if the tide falls in the early hours. All traditional methods will work. However, lure fishing will be best early, as the sun gets up go deeper. If the tide is low or close to low, usually the wind is calm and I like to look for tailing or backing red fish. Once mid morning comes it brings the afternoon sea breeze and conditions diminish. When fishing this style, the lightest TBS Jig, usually an 1/8 or 1/4 oz, will do the job. Quiet & patience is a must. If you see a backer, lead the fish and cast just beyond, as the fish gets closer, make sure the presentation crosses the fishes path. Subtle movement on the lure. Less is generally better. If you dead stick baits, mullet, crab, shrimp, do the job, just remember, there are a lot of pin fish and they are hard on the shrimp and can be frustrating. Also the bull reds will be cruising the channel edges of the river. A fish finder rig with a crab or cut bait on 20/30lb tackle will be a ticket. Please take the time to return them in good shape, they are our future fish. Other good bets are fishing the beach in the pogie pods. A TBS Jig and a pogie rigged through the lips and cast to the edges of the bait pods could results in a bull red, tarpon, shark or a big Jack crevalle. No table fare, but, a lot of fun. As we all know North Fl. Is seasonal and I try to do what is happening best at that time of year. Until next report, get out and experience north Fla. Fishing!!
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.