July brings hot weather and hot fishing! Right now the king mackerel are biting well on the party grounds, with the occasional cobia, bonito, barracuda, or amberjack making an appearance. Slow trolling pogies or jigged up sardines or cigar minnows will usually draw a strike. Tarpon are in the area and could be crashing the pogie pods or lurking in the depths of the river. Once you hook one, the fun begins with explosive leaps and tail-walking in an effort to free itself. Blacktip and spinner sharks are behind the shrimp boats and in the inlet, and will test your stamina and tackle.
Large redfish are in the deep river and at the jetty tips. This fishing should be improving until it peaks in Sept. and Oct. Trout have slowed down due to the heat during the day, but will be feeding around dock lights at night during moving tides. Trout will also hit lures fished early and late. Flounder should be biting on mud minnows and finger mullet fished near pilings and rip rap out of the main current. Jacks, spanish mackerel, and ladyfish are all fun on light tackle.
Go early, watch the weather and avoid thunder storms, and enjoy some summer fishing!
May is one of my favorite fishing months here in NE Florida. Most of the transitory fish that prefer warmer water have arrived with the exception of tarpon and king mackerel, which could show up later this month. The sharks show up behind shrimp boats. Cobia are being caught along the beaches in proximity to bait pods and migrating manta rays. Bull reds and sharks are also shadowing the bait pods, and have even moved up the river. Ten to fifteen pound reds are available along the big jetties.
Speckled trout are hitting top water plugs in low light conditions. Ladyfish, jacks, and bluefish seem to be everywhere inshore. Reds can be found along the edges of the ICW and in its feeder creeks. Flounder fishing has improved and will continue to get better as the larger offshore fish migrate inshore for the summer. The fishing for the huge black drum has slowed down, but smaller drum are still occasional catches and are excellent eating.
Surf fishing is productive with good catches of whiting, blues, drum, and pompano being made. Clear water is important when you are surf fishing. Muddy water usually results in more catfish and stingrays.
March was a productive fishing month here in NE Florida, despite windy weather conditions. April should be even better with warmer water and the arrival of transitional fish such as jack crevalle, ladyfish, pompano, and spanish mackerel. Also, the big spawning black drum are already here swimming in the deep water of area inlets.
Redfish will be biting really well at the Mayport jetties and deep river this month, with slot size fish mixed in with oversize reds up to 30 or more pounds. They will hit shrimp on jigs near jetty rocks, as well as crab on bottom in deeper water. Speckled trout fishing should continue to improve, with more large fish being caught. Sliding cork rigs with live shrimp are very effective for the trout. Surface lures fished in low light conditions and lipped diving lures and plastics on jigs will also take their share of big trout. Some yellow mouth and silver trout will be mixed in with the specks.
Sheepshead are continuing to bite well on fiddlers and blue crab sections fished over rocks or other structure. We’ve caught several large fish recently. We may see the first beach running cobia this month when the ocean water temperatures get up in the high 60’s. They will be shadowing the migrating manta rays or free swimming along the beach or tide lines. You might also find a tripletail hovering near a crab trap buoy or some other debris, if you know what to look for. They are masters of camouflage.
Sometimes in April large bluefish in the 10-15 lb. range show up at the St. Augustine and Jacksonville jetty tips. They can be caught casting top water lures or live baits tight to the rocks. When the surf conditions are right (meaning clear water and not too rough), whiting and pompano should bite in the surf on fresh shrimp and sand fleas.
March is here and the fishing should continue to improve as each week passes. As the water warms, our transient fish – such as ladyfish, jacks, tripletail, and spanish mackerel – will make an appearance. The massive spawning black drum will show up in area inlets and rivers this month. In my boat we release all the big ones to continue their life cycle. Smaller drum up to about twelve pounds make good table fare. Both red and trout fishing should improve as their metabolism speeds up with warming water. Artificial lures will become more effective for the same reason.
Surf fishing should produce some nice whiting, trout, drum, reds, and the occasional pompano. I’ve even caught the big 40-50 lb. drum in the surf while fishing for whiting. The sheepshead bite should improve this month with many large fish being caught as they congregate to spawn. Our recent sheepshead tournament produced a mammoth 14 lb. fish which broke the tournament record by a couple of pounds.
Other fish which are occasionally caught in March include yellow mouth trout, bluefish, flounder, and croakers. The wind can sometimes be challenging this month, but you can usually find a protected shoreline to wet a line and enjoy our north Florida salt water fishing.
Capt. Bob Cosby
I, and all the other local captains, have seen enough of the cold and windy conditions endured in January! Hopefully, February will not be quite so challenging. The water temperatures are in the low 50’s in the river, and colder in shallower water until midday warming. The best fishing has been in creeks off the ICW after they warm in the sun. The dark bottoms act as solar collectors pushing temps into the high 50’s, which is all the redfish need to start feeding.
Other fish that we target in cold water include sheepshead, black drum, ring tail porgies, bluefish, black sea bass, and yellowmouth and speckled trout. The sheepshead feed on crustaceans living on rocks, pilings, and other structure. Large drum frequent the deep tips of the jetties and the roll down inside the jetties. Smaller drum show up in holes in ICW creeks. Porgies like the shallow tips of the jetties on clear incoming tides. Bluefish can appear anytime, anywhere, though usually in clear water. Yellowmouth trout will be in 10-20 ft. depths with speckled trout above them in the water column.
The best fishing for black sea bass is offshore on calm days. On warmer, calmer days whiting should bite in the surf. Both these fish are excellent eating and aggressive feeders. Watch the weather and enjoy our NE Florida salt water fishing!
Capt. Bob Cosby
Fishing in January is all about the weather. Recent cold waves have the surface water temperatures down to the high 40’s, which is very cold for our area. As quickly as it cooled, it can warm back up with a few nice days, and the fish will be hungry. Sheepshead and spot tailed porgeys should be biting at the inlet jetties. Redfish will also be at the big rocks, and in the ICW and its feeder creeks. When fishing the creeks, try to fish the mid afternoon incoming tide. The exposed mud flats act as solar collectors and will warm the rising water attracting the cold blooded fish.
Black drum tolerate the colder water well, as do yellowmouth trout and bluefish. Speckled trout will also be in the mix. Be sure to fish the deep holes at creek bends. The warmer water will be deep in the winter, attracting trout and drum. Croakers are another species that are available in colder water. The roll down areas of the river channel can be productive. Fresh dead shrimp are the best bait for croakers.
December provides the last of the fall fishing patterns with colder water and more frequent northeasters arriving in January and February. Trout and redfish usually bite well this month. Rat reds and the occasional slot red are in the creeks. Larger reds can be caught in the inlet and near the jetty rocks. Speckled and yellowmouth trout are plentiful in the river and creeks. The yellowmouth feed near the bottom, whereas the speckled trout are higher in the water column. Black drum catches increase at the jetties and in the river. Blue crab or fresh dead shrimp work best for drum. We continue to catch the occasional flounder, but most of the larger fish have moved offshore for the winter.
As the water cools, the sheepshead bite picks up. These striped, powerful fish are excellent eating and challenging to catch on light tackle. Their bite is very subtle and difficult to detect. It feels more like a “pressure” than a normal bite. I usually tell my customers to raise their rods if they feel anything unusual happening at the end of their lines. We catch them near jetty rocks or pilings in the river or ICW on fiddler crabs fished on jigs or carolina rigs. Blue crabs and clams are also excellent baits for sheepshead.
After spending a month in Nova Scotia, Canada, I’m back and fishing our First Coast waters. The major bull red spawning run in the rivers and inlets is winding down. The big reds will roam the beaches eating and replenishing themselves following the spawn until the water cools and northeasters start, sending them offshore to their wintering grounds. Slot reds should be available at jetty rocks, at the edges of the ICW, and in its feeder creeks all winter. Live mullet, shrimp, cut bait and crab are all effective, as well as artificials and flies.
Black drum have also shown up in the creeks and holes of the river. These are not the giant spawning drum of March and April, but are smaller 2-5 pounders that give you a spirited fight and are good eating. Drum are crustacean feeders, and will hit shrimp, crab, and clam baits fished on the bottom.
Sheepshead fishing should improve this month. Fiddler crabs are the bait of choice. These striped fish are challenging to hook, put up a spirited fight, and are delicious table fare. I also enjoy fishing for flounder in the fall. The most effective baits include finger mullet, mud minnows, and spinner baits. They are fat and tasty after gorging all summer.
Speckled trout fishing is also improving. Fish early with top water lures, and use subsurface baits when the sun is bright. It’s hard to beat live shrimp on a sliding or popping cork rig for trout. Some weakfish, which are locally called yellow mouth trout, are also in the mix. If you want to try surf fishing, whiting, reds, drum, and the occasional pompano are all possible catches.
Pick your days so as to avoid the strong northeasters, and enjoy some salt water fishing on the First Coast!
CAPT Bob Cosby
August brings our hottest weather and is prime time to target tarpon, sharks, jacks, and other ocean predators. King mackerel, bonita, cobia, barracuda, and even sailfish are possible catches. Tarpon may be crashing pogey pods or lurking along the jetty rocks. Mullet in the creeks and river system will be getting restless, and will move towards the ocean at the first hint of a northeaster. That movement will stimulate all kinds of predator activity. Thunder storms will be popping up in the afternoons, and should be avoided whenever possible.
Flounder fishing should continue to improve with the appearance of more finger mullet. Trout are scarce during daylight hours, but show up in numbers after dark in dock lights along the river and ICW. Jacks and ladyfish could show up as by catch at any time. Bull reds will continue to migrate into the rivers and inlets in preparation for the fall spawning season. They can be taken by fishing the deep river with crab, cut, or live bait. Large sharks lurk in the depths and occasionally feast on the hooked big reds. The creeks and ICW are very warm and not as productive as in the cooler months.
Capt Bob Cosby
July brings hot weather and hot fishing. Right now the king mackerel are biting well on the party grounds, with the occasional cobia, bonito, barracuda, or amberjack making an appearance. Slow trolling pogies or jigged up sardines or cigar minnows will usually draw a strike. Tarpon are in the area and could be crashing the pogie pods or lurking in the depths of the river. Blacktip and spinner sharks are behind the shrimp boats and will test your stamina and tackle.
Large redfish are in the deep river and at the jetty tips. Trout have slowed down due to the heat during the day, but will be feeding around dock lights at night during moving tides. Flounder are biting fairly well on mud minnows and finger mullet fished near pilings and rip rap out of the main current. Jacks, spanish mackerel, and ladyfish are all fun on light tackle.
Go early, watch the weather and avoid thunder storms, and enjoy some summer fishing on our first coast.