Weekend a good opportunity for offshore scouting

  • Natalie Sullivan with her summertime kingfish. (photo submitted)
    Natalie Sullivan with her summertime kingfish. (photo submitted)
  • Chad Corbett with a near shore cobia. (photo submitted)
    Chad Corbett with a near shore cobia. (photo submitted)

With the holiday weekend rapidly approaching, the weather is looking great and the fish are chewing. Pack some extra patience – with the ramps already over capacity every weekend, the 4th will be an absolute zoo. Don’t expect it to be any better the following weekend, with our Atlantic Red Snapper season opening the 10-12th and the 17th. With the rapid growth in Northeast Florida over the last few decades, our ramps and facilities have not kept pace and it’s starting to show, with trailers parked down the roads by 7 or 8 a.m. every weekend.
If you’re taking the family offshore this weekend, it’s a good opportunity to do some scouting, and refine your bottom fishing techniques and tackle for the coming season. Despite whatever science the fish lords at NOAA rely on telling them red snapper are endangered, it shouldn’t be an issue to get your one fish a day limit on any of the public reefs near shore or live bottom. About any bait will do – chicken rigs, knocker rigs, dropper rigs, anything really – these fish aren’t picky or near as leader-shy as a mutton or mangrove. One of my favorite ways to target them is on bucktail jigs. Drifting usually works better with jigs and you don’t have to go directly over the wreck, which is where the toothy critters will steal your jig. Bounce the jig around 40 to 60 feet off to the side, keeping it in the lower third of the water column, and you’ll pick off snapper almost each drift, with potential for a cob or AJ as well.
Inshore, the fishing has been steady, well into the summer pattern. Look for the flounder fishing to continue to improve over the next few months as they fatten up on mullet. Live mud minnows or finger mullet are deadly on flounder. Use a Carolina rig with eight to 10 inches of 20-pound leader, or bump up to 25-pound if you are fishing lots of heavy structure. With the water color in the river, you don’t seem to lose many bites going up some on leader, but I still prefer to fish as light as possible to give the bait the best presentation.
While the trout fishing tends to taper off during the day each summer, the night bite can be spectacular on the bridges and dock lights. As an added bonus, those same lights also attract more variety this time of year and, if you put the time in, you’ll find lights with tarpon, snook, redfish and trout all in the same area.
For any questions, to book a charter trip, or to send in a report and pictures of your catch to be featured in a future report, send an email to Chris@fishjax.org.