Cool fall weather not only makes fishing enjoyable with the lack of 90° days, but also excites the feeding habits of both fresh and saltwater game fish. A major run of mullet helps make early fall tarpon fishing some of the best saltwater action of the year.
While navigating through both the Nassau and St. Mary's inlets, saltwater fishermen can't help but notice the large schools of fall mullet working the surface during all tidal phases. Even more impressive are the game fish that are ambushing mullet right on the surface, including shark, jack crevalle, tarpon and bull redfish. It's a great idea to have on board an eight-foot 5/8" mesh cast net in order to capture enough live mullet for your bait well. Simply drifting a live mullet close to a school of working game fish on the surface, or down deep on the bottom with 30 to 50-lb spin or casting tackle, produces great fall fishing action. A 5-foot length of 80-lb. monofilament shock leader is a must, with a 7/0 kahle hook attached to the tag end of the shock leader. If the action is close to the bottom, attach a fish finder onto your main line with a four to eight-oz. bank sinker.
Massive schools of "bull reds" weighing up to 50 pounds will school in deep holes and close to shallow sandbars located at both inlets during the fall fishing season. Favorite angling tactics include fishing right on the bottom with cut baits, fresh large shrimp or live finger mullet.
Many of the red drum landed here will likely measure over the Florida maximum size limit of 27 inches. Fishermen may keep one redfish per day measuring at least 18 inches and not over 27 inches.
Tarpon action can also be enjoyed while bottom fishing with cut baits, live menhaden or live mullet. Flounder fishing is excellent along the jetty rocks during the falling tide while fishing right on the bottom with live finger mullet or bullhead minnows.
Sheepshead fishing close to the jetty rocks is also productive during the last of the falling tide, while fishing close to the jetty rocks with fiddler crabs or barnacles. Carefully anchor your boat up close to low areas in the jetty rocks where sheepshead congregate while feeding on prey that is washed through the low area of the jetties.
Sea trout at the St. Mary's rock jetties will take a live shrimp fished deep under a trout float. Fish the river side of the south jetty rocks during the falling tide. During the slower moving tides, cast a S25 MR Mirr-O-Lure in the mullet color pattern. Florida's current daily bag limit on sea trout is five per angler with a 15-inch minimum size limit. Trout fishermen may keep one sea trout per day measuring over 20 inches
The rock jetties located at historic Fort Clinch offers excellent flounder, sea trout and red drum fishing during the falling tide. Here, fishermen will target fish between the small rock jetties while fishing right on the bottom with live finger mullet, bullhead minnows or live shrimp. In the deep waters bordering the fort, fishing on the bottom with fresh shrimp produces good catches of excellent-eating whiting.
Offshore fishing action can be red hot during the fall fishing season as cooling water temperatures find bait fish and striking fish migrating from near shore fish havens out to deep water live bottoms. One of the best kingfish locations during the fall fishing season is the "Brunswick 40-Mile Bottom".
Running farther offshore, fishermen will find the Continental Shelf, located some 70 miles offshore with a water depth of 180 feet. Trolling with ballyhoo and large plastic lure combos produces excellent catches of sailfish, wahoo, dolphin, white and blue marlin and black and yellowfin tuna.
One of the more popular styles of fall fishing is bottom fishing at one of the many close-to-shore reefs and wrecks for gag grouper, red snapper, black sea bass and cobia. Bottom fishermen will find numerous lime rock ledges and wrecks in water depths of 50-70 feet within 15 miles offshore of the St. Mary's rock jetties. Anchoring or drifting over one of these productive fishing drops can produce some real rod-bending grouper action! Many of these fish havens are identified on the local offshore fishing chart with GPS coordinates.
Be sure to bring along the latest fishing regulations for fishing in federal waters. The red snapper season is currently closed.
Huge schools of redfish can be found in the backwaters of Amelia Island during the fall fishing season, and can be taken by a variety of angling techniques. One of the more popular methods is casting a topwater plug during a flooding tide.
A full blown fall northeaster paired with a full moon floods backcountry marshes where wade fishing is extremely popular for tailing reds. Casting a gold Johnson spoon or led head jig rigged to a Berkley Gulp shrimp is a deadly technique for tailing reds. Fly fishermen enjoy wade fishing and working a crab pattern fly where reds weighing to 10 pounds are showcasing their spotted tails. As the tide falls, red drum will school at creek mouths, mud flats and docks that border nearby flats and deep channels.
Sea trout fishing is also excellent while casting topwater plugs during a flooding tide. Sea trout will readily take a live shrimp drifted under a small popping cork, mirror lure, or a 1/4-oz. led head jig rigged with a chartreuse plastic curly tail.
Flounder fishing takes place during the falling tide at creek mouths, boat docks and deep sloughs. One of the very best flounder fishing tactics includes fishing right on the bottom with finger mullet or bullhead minnows.
Further up the tidal estuaries, area fishermen will find excellent largemouth bass fishing during the fall. Some of the more popular tidal rivers include the big and little St. Mary's Rivers, Lofton, Boggy and Thomas' Creeks. Look for the falling tide to produce largemouth bass weighing to eight pounds while working a trick worm slowly along the river’s edge.
Surf fishing is also excellent during the fall for whiting, blues, flounder, red drum, sea trout and small puppy drum. Fish on the bottom with a peeled fresh shrimp barbed to one hook and a live sand flea on the second hook. Some of the best surf fishing action can be found at the "old pipeline", the south end of Amelia Island and the new rock jetties, which are located at the southern tip of Amelia Island.
Crabbing during the fall season is excellent family fun! Delicious-eating blue crabs can be caught while fishing right on the bottom with a weighted piece of chicken. When a slight tug is detected, slowly pull the blue crab to the surface and net with a long-handled net. Keep the crabs alive in a bucket of water, then place in a boiling pot of water with crab boil added. When the crabs turn a bright pink, they are ready to eat!
Non-Florida residents over age 16 will need a saltwater fishing license when fishing from land, bridges, piers and boats. Florida residents must have their free Florida resident saltwater fishing license with them when fishing from the beach, bridges or piers.
For more fishing and charter information please contact the Amelia Angler at (904) 261-2870 or visit www.ameliaangler.com. Amelia Angler Outfitters is located at 111 Centre Street.