Saltwater fishing in North FloridaÂ takes advantage of one of the richest, and most diverse areas for fishing in the world. The list of available species includes tarpon, cobia, sea trout, redfish, flounder, sailfish, snapper and grouper, bluefish, jack crevalle, an occasional snook, and many others.
There is really no bad time to fish this area, although some species are more available on a seasonal basis than others whether they are inshore, near shore, or offshore game fish.
This month, savvy anglers turn their attention to the inshore waters, where redfish and trout become a prime target. Thatâs directly related to the annual fall mullet run, which is in full swing this month. Hereâs a look at how to get in on it, and where some of the best action is.
MOSQUITO LAGOON REDS
This shallow waterway comes alive with the first hint of fall.
âWith the tail end of the hurricane season we normally have slightly higher water levels, and those first little bumps of north wind get the reds bunched up and heading to the tidal creeks,â said Capt. Scott Tripp.
Trippâs favorite creeks are those on the northern end of Mosquito Lagoon from Shotgun Pass to the Three Sisters. His favorite pattern is simple.
âFollow the creeks in, fishing the deeper bends as you go,â he advised. âLook for the smaller open bays inside. Some may not be more than 25-yards wide, and those that have grass in them are normally best. In the cool morning the reds tend to hang in the deeper bends, but as the sun gets up they fan out and tail in those shallow bays just off the channels.â
There is little tide movement in this area, but even a 6- to 8-inch falling tide moves the fish off of the extremely shallow flats and makes them accessible to boating anglers. Tripp prefers the falling tide and notes that a key to look for in these bays are deeper white sand holes in the grass.
âThe reds find these on a falling tide,â he said. âBut donât be surprised to find a 6- to 10-pound trout parked in the middle of one.â
Among Trippâs favorite lures are compact topwater baits like the MirrOLure MR-14 and the Zara Spook Puppy. Mullet-imitating patterns are top choices. Plastic-tailed jigs are another effective bet.
âA 3-inch Berkley Gulp! Shrimp on a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jig is deadly,â Tripp said. âThe clearer the water color, the lighter and more mullet-like color you want to use.â
Another spot worth checking on a falling tide are the mosquito ditches the surround the lagoon. If there is even a slight current flow out of them and into the lagoon, the mouths of those culverts can be hotspots as baitfish pour through the funnel.
To book a day of fishing with Capt. Scott Tripp call (386) 427-3499, or check out email@example.com.
Moving north on the First Coast, the area from State Route 206 south to the Pellicer Creek flats also gets a boost from both cooling temperatures and masses of mullet.
âThere is a major mullet run this monthâ said Capt. Tommy Derringer âand the reds are keyed to it. This is the forage theyâre after and they climb as shallow onto the flats as the mullet run to get to it.â
The normal tide in this area is about 3-feet, although a hard east wind raises it. Derringerâs approach is simple.
âA high tide pushes mullet and reds right up onto any flat along the ICW,â he said. âThe ones I want to fish are those with Spartina grass lines on them that have a two to three-foot depth at high tide.â
Catch those conditions on a high tide and Derringer recommends topwater plugs, and notes that while dim light is an asset, anglers can stay with them throughout the high tide this time of year. Perennial favorites include the Rapala Skitterwalk, Storm Chug Bug and the Zara Spook Baby and Puppy models. Others also work, although Derringer notes it is wise to match the size of the bait to the size of the mullet present.
If redfish just boil at surface baits, shifting to shallow-running jerkbaits, like the Bomber Long A can be effective. Whichever is chosen, mullet or chrome patterns are preferred.
Another of Derringerâs favorites is the locally made Slayer Jig in Golden Bream color.
âWe can get some stained water this time of year,â Derringer said, âand the Slayer tails feature a wide paddletail on a four-inch plastic jig. If you rig it on a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jig head with the paddle tail horizontal you can fish it very shallow, and the extra vibration from that big tail seems to help.â
While the flood tide can offer excellent action, you can still score on the ebb.
âIf youâve got fish on a shallow flat and the tide falls,â Derringer stated, âdrop back to the mouths of the shallow creeks that feed the flats. Thatâs the way the fish come off the flats, and they are excellent ambush points for them to wait for the baitfish following the tidesâ.
Most of the fish on the flats are reds, except on the Pellicer Creek area where you can get some big, loner gator trout moving shallow. At the falling tide creek mouths, you also get trout and some good-sized flounder moving up from the deeper ICW waters for an easy meal.
Capt. Tommy Derringer is available for charters at (904) 377-3734 or visit his Web site at www.InshoreAdventures.net.
PINE ISLAND TROUT
The next stop northward is the Intra-Coastal Waterway from the St. Augustine Inlet, north to Pine Island.
âThe mullet run is in full swing and theyâre heading south along the ICW until they dump out of the St. Augustine Inlet,â said Capt. Larry Miniard. âTrout are keyed on this mass of bait, and they are going to be where they can feed on them most easily. The striking activity we get this month is some of the best we see all year.â
Normal tides in this area run 4 1/2 feet, but with northeast wind they can run to 6 feet. That is a lot of water moving through this area, and the baitfish follow that water. Miniard plans his day accordingly.
âOn the early rising tide I want to be along the main ICW where a shallow flat abuts a Spartina grass line and has a sharp drop to deeper water right next to it. Big trout, and we catch fish over 8-pounds every October, move into just a couple of feet of water if they can corral baitfish and shrimp against a solid wall like Spartina grass. But, they donât want to be more than a tail flip or two away from a deeper water haven â.
Miniard favors a topwater plug here, especially early in the day, and likes the MirrOLure double prop bait in baitfish colors.
The rising tide can be a hunt and peck affair, since many such depth and cover situations dot the ICW. When the tide falls, the game changes.
âThose trout follow the tide and the baitfish up into every creek along the ICW and then into the feeder creeks that lead to the flats,â Miniard said. âWhen the tide falls and the flats go dry, they have to come out.â
One of the quickest ways to tie into serious trout fishing this month is to enter the main creeks on the last half of the falling tide, and hit the mouth of every small intersecting creek that leads from the flats. Among those creeks that are invariably productive are Casa Cola, Sombrero, the Guana River, Pancho, Robinson, Stokes Creek, and the Seaplane Basin. If the bait is there, and the tide is dropping, you can count on trout.
Capt. Larry Miniard can be contacted at (904) 708-0060, or check out his Web site at www.larryminiard.com.
Further north this area has a well-deserved reputation for producing some of the heaviest spotted sea trout in the state, and October is one of the premier months to target them.
âAll of the mullet and shrimp that have spent the summer months down river are now heading north to pour out of the Mayport Inlet,â Capt. Tony Bozzella said, âand those big trout are right behind them.â
Eight- to 10-pound trout are not uncommon in this area, but they can be widely scattered during warmer weather. The fall mullet migration tends to concentrate them into several productive areas.
Among those that are traditionally productive is the back end of Mill Cove after the tide has risen several feet. Those big trout push into the shallow grass and oyster cover, where topwater plugs can provide exciting action.
Another is the sharply dropping coast along the dock-laden Fort Caroline shore. On a rising tide the trout push right up to the shoreline bulk heads to corral mullet. When the tide falls, and it moves fast along this stretch, they slip into the eddy behind dock pilings where they can nail any passing mullet. Topwater plugs and jerkbaits can be deadly on the rising tide, while jerkbaits and plastic-tailed jigs get the nod on the ebb.
The Fort George area is another excellent bet.
âWhen you find a shallow flat with a grass line that drops off quickly to seven or more feet of water, youâve found a spot that holds big trout if the bait is there,â Bozzella said. âTopwater plugs like the Rapala Skitterwalk, or the Bite-A-Bait models are great on a rising tide, especially early and late in the day. When the tide falls, jerkbaits and plastic jigs with a four or five inch trailer can walk right down the drop and find those trout â even at midday.â
Visit Capt. Tony Bozzellaâs Web site at www.tonybozzella.com, or call him at (904) 651-0182.
ST. AUGUSTINE TARPON
The massive October movement of mullet makes for hot action on trout and reds in the ICW. But, it also fires up the tarpon around the St. Augustine Inlet.
âYouâve got mullet pouring out the Inlet, and you also have big schools migrating south along the beaches,â Capt. Dennis Goldstein said. âThere have been tarpon feeding behind the shrimp boats in 35 to 60 feet of water all summer, and if the water temperature stays in the mid-to-upper 70s â which it usually does this month â they are now exploding on those beach mullet pods.â
The migrating mullet schools normally run 200 to 400 feet off the beach and can be found within four or five miles north or south of the Inlet. Theyâre not hard to find.
âI normally kick my boat up onto a slow plane and run the beach,â Goldstein said. âYou can see the mullet schools rippling right along the surface and the ones that have tarpon working them arenât hard to spot. You see massive surface strikes and even tarpon cartwheeling in the air. Itâs a very visual thing.â
Getting in on the action is easy. The first step is to cast-net a dozen mullet and get them into the livewell. Goldstein prefers those in the eight to ten inch range. His preferred rig is a heavy action 7Â 1/2-foot spinning rod spooled with several hundred yards of 65-pound braided line. A Cajun Thunder rattling cork is tied onto the braid and a 4- or 5-foot, 80-pound fluorocarbon leader runs off of that with a 6/0 circle hook forming the business end, with a live mullet hooked through the nose.
âSometimes,â Goldstein noted, âwhen a tarpon blows up in the middle of a mullet pod they leave a big âhole.â If you can get your bait into that hole, you probably hook up. But, there is almost more than one tarpon in a mullet pod. You can even have schools of them, so just get your bait into the middle of the pod and let that Cajun Thunder cork work for you.â
Visit Capt. Dennis Goldstein on his Web site at www.hotfunsportfishingcharters.com or call (904) 810-2455.
Looking for the best holiday gifts for the angler in your life? Don’t miss our 2013 Holiday Fishing Gift Guide!