Warm weather brings out variety of fish

  • Shawn, Greg and Tyler have been eating Cobia all week. (photo submitted)
    Shawn, Greg and Tyler have been eating Cobia all week. (photo submitted)
  • Milan, Guille and James, in town from London, enjoy some local fishing. (photo submitted)
    Milan, Guille and James, in town from London, enjoy some local fishing. (photo submitted)

Summertime is in the air, and summer fishing is here! This last week has seen a huge change in the local fishing as the water temperature skyrocketed from 71 up to 77 along the beach. The waves of pelagic predators that follow the bait migration are here for the summer. If you want to bend a rod, all you need is a cast net to procure your pogies, and then it’s go time. 
Nearshore, action is pretty much guaranteed this week. You can catch kingfish, sharks, tarpon, big redfish, bluefish and jacks, with some some stray blackfin and mahi in close. It’s all on the table this month. The kingfish bite has really picked up over the last week; it’s been good for a couple weeks now, but some much bigger fish are showing up nearshore and on the beach. 
Slow trolling pogies is my preferred method for targeting kingfish. I like to use 40 pound, seven-strand wire and tie a stinger rig with a 2/0 owner flyliner nose hook and a 4x treble trailer. I personally snell the hooks, but a figure 8 knot works with seven strand as well. The old go-to, hard wire, is still common, but I like the flex of the seven strand surfwire and have found it’s less prone to kinking. Speed is key when doing any kind of trolling. When using pogies, you want to go as slow as possible – 2 knots or less – towing a sea anchor or bumping in and out of gear slowly. The bait should be swimming, not being dragged. If you troll dead baits or bigger live bait like blue runners, then you can go a little faster, up to about 4 knots. When making leaders this time of year, it doesn’t hurt to go a little longer. Sailfish are always lurking in the same areas as kingfish, and if you do get that billfish bite, an extra couple feet of leader can be the difference between a quick show and a trophy catch. 
Offshore, the trolling has been good, with mahi, tuna, wahoo and some billfish reports out of Vilano as well. Reports I have gotten this week vary widely on depth; some boats are finding mahi in the 120 to 140 range, while others are getting fish out around 1,000 feet. The guys staying closer seem to be picking up more variety with the blackfin and wahoo bites, but most of the good numbers of mahi have been deep. 
Offshore, bottom fishing is much more appealing now that grouper is back open. I’ve seen a few fish being caught nearshore, but the better bite has been out in the 130 foot plus range. Captain Jimmy Laidler put his clients on some huge mutton snapper and nice gag grouper this week out of Vilano. We took advantage of the calm seas Tuesday and pushed the bay boat 20 miles offshore looking for gags, but ended up just feeding our endangered red snapper population. There were no keeper-size vermillion to report from that 15 to 20 mile range either this week. It may be a little longer before they move in closer for the summer. Keep an eye on your flatline while out this weekend; it was the ticket for us this week, getting bites from nice kingfish and a lost mahi that was in 90 feet of water. 
Inshore, Captain Andrew Mizell and Captain Matt Chipperfield both had good reports this week. Matt says the trout and redfish bite in the Valley and around Vilano has been excellent. Flounder fishing is picking up, and some bigger fish are moving inshore. If I was fishing Vilano this week, it would be around docks and rocks close to the inlet, with live finger mullet or minnows. Fish slowly and you’ll pick off flounder and redfish all day. The redfish bite around the Vilano bridge has been particularly good this week. 
In Mayport, the St. Johns continues to resemble a mudslide at anything except high tide. Clean water is going to be the key to any successful trip. Plan to fish the top of the tide cycle and chase the clean water. Live pogies are the bait of choice in Mayport for the redfish right now. Mullet and shrimp will also get bites. While the Vilano run has been on, I haven’t heard much about flounder so far in the St. Johns. That could be because of tight lips, but it may be the dredging. Usually, the docks and big rocks are both holding fish this time of year, but the people I’ve talked to that have been looking haven’t found many.