Weekend weather forecast looks promising for First Coast anglers

  • Gabe caught his biggest fish yet on fly. (photo submitted)
    Gabe caught his biggest fish yet on fly. (photo submitted)
  • Capt. Andrew Mizell holds a nice end of season sheepshead. (photo submitted)
    Capt. Andrew Mizell holds a nice end of season sheepshead. (photo submitted)
  • Tracy Sallmen shows off her first solo sailfish with Captain Jim Holt and Gregg Quick. (photo submitted)
    Tracy Sallmen shows off her first solo sailfish with Captain Jim Holt and Gregg Quick. (photo submitted)

The weather is hot, but so is the fishing! The last few weeks have been excellent for First Coast anglers, and this weekend is looking like another great opportunity to get out on the water. At time of writing, the forecast for the weekend calls for moderate winds, small swells and only a slight chance of showers Saturday. Weather like this leaves pretty much all options on the table, from bass fishing neighborhood ponds to hitting the ledge for pelagic gamefish.
Let’s start inshore. The flounder bite has been steady for a few weeks now and continues to be a good bet for the outgoing tide. The Redfish have settled into summer patterns – look for them shallow on the banks early and late in the day, then in the 2 to 4 foot depth range as the water gets hot midday. Topwater fishing at sunrise and sunset is spectacular right now and will catch redfish as well as Trout, Jacks, Ladyfish and Spanish Mackerel. I’ve heard good reports for Trout fishing around the valley south of the 210 bridge, and also upriver in the St. Johns. The Tarpon have been inshore for a few weeks now, but are showing in better numbers. There are still more fish south towards Vilano, but they have been holding on the big rocks at Mayport, especially around the tips.
Off the beach, the Tarpon fishing has been tough, mostly due to the scarcity of the bait pods. The near constant southeast flow we have had the last couple weeks has pushed lots of clean, blue Gulf Stream water up tight to the beach, which has displaced the greenish coastal waters that are full of the plankton the baitfish forage on. Acres of bait one day turns into nothing the next. My advice is to net some mullet before heading out of the inlet. The pogies we have been catching have either been incredibly shallow in 4 to 5 feet of water in the surf zone, or deep on the bottom in 35 to 40 feet. Either scenario makes for a difficult time catching bait.
Luckily, the bait has been the only issue for nearshore fishing. Once you have something to pull, the Kingfish bite has been fantastic. Anywhere from a mile to 15 miles offshore, they are on almost every number. If you don’t get a bite within 15 minutes, try the next spot. Once you find a school, the action has been non-stop. One thing I’ve noticed this year is the number of fish holding high in the water column. Usually, early season Kingfishing is a downrigger game, with half or more of the strikes coming off the rigger in 45 to 50 feet of water. While I’m still getting some bites on the downrigger baits, most of the time I’m too busy with the surface lines to even reset it. Trolling a couple baits with no weight and one with an ounce is all you need to stay in the game. Look for the cigar minnow schools around the wrecks; with the lack of pogies on the beach, there are Kingfish on all of the bait schools offshore.
Offshore, the options are plentiful right now, with plenty of pelagics to troll for and also a great bottom fishing bite. It’s worth the gas to hit the ledge with ballyhoo and troll for Mahi, Sails, Tuna and Marlin. I was lucky enough to be invited out last weekend, and we went 2/4 on Mahi trolling between 130 to 600 feet. Scattered weeds inside 400 was where we got most strikes. Radio and dock chatter indicated that the boats that started earlier seemed to be on a good morning bite, but the trolling hits slowed down around 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. We moved in some to 130 feet to do some bottom fishing, and after a few drifts had a limit of Vermillion snapper, a few triggerfish, red porgies and a flatline Mahi.
All said, the options are plentiful this weekend. Hope you find yourself with tight lines and fair seas!