Amelia Island waters are teeming with a wide variety of both fresh and saltwater game fish during the winter fishing season. Offshore fishing is excellent for black sea bass, gag grouper, flounder, trigger fish and red snapper. Bay and jetty fishing highlights black drum, bull reds, sharks and jack crevelle. Be prepared for a big fight that often tests heavy tackle and your angling skills!
Backwater fishermen will be casting for schooling sea trout and redfish, while flounder, blues and sheepshead are also willing to put up a decent fight.
Freshwater fishing in the St. Mary's and Nassau rivers and their feeder creeks offer excellent largemouth and striped bass fishing.
If you don't have a boat, fishing from the beach and George Crady fishing pier is excellent for whiting, black drum, sea trout, bluefish, flounder, sheepshead and the occasional shark.
By far the most popular style of winter fishing includes drifting live shrimp under a small float, or casting lures for sea trout.
One of Amelia Island's favorite sea trout drops includes the "Pelican Banks", which are located at the southwest corner of the north jetty rocks. Here, speck fishermen will anchor their fishing boat close to a low area of the jetty rocks while targeting the low incoming tide. Some of best catches here are enjoyed while drifting live shrimp under a trout float, while allowing the outgoing tide to carry the live shrimp close to the low area of the jetty rocks.
The "Pelican Banks" are also an excellent trout drop during the incoming tide. Fishermen will find the water here fairly shallow, as a slough runs between the jetty rocks and a nearby sandbar. Fishing here with live shrimp under a sea trout float will also produce flounder, redfish and blues.
Sea trout fishing in the Amelia River close to dock pilings located just south of the mouth of Egan's Creek offers excellent speck fishing during the cooler months of winter. Many winter sea trout fishermen prefer the last of the incoming and the first of the outgoing tide, when water clarity is best. Casting a minnow-type plug close to this rocky, piling-clad shoreline works best while imparting a slow, tempting retrieve. Slow sinking hard baits like the 52-MR Mirr-O-Lure and the Rapala's "Count Down" work best for specks that sometimes bust the 10-lb. mark!
Red fishing in the backwaters of Amelia Island can be excellent as well during the winter fishing season. Many red bass fishermen prefer to fish the last few hours of the falling tide and the first few hours of the incoming tide. Here, good numbers of red bass will school in key areas including the deep sides of marsh flats where small creek mouths greet a deep channel. Considering the cooler water temperatures, fishing right on the bottom with a Berkley Gulp shrimp in the "New Penny" color pattern is key to getting these lethargic winter reds to eat. Without saying, a 1/4 piece of blue crab or a small chunk of mullet fished on the bottom is a deadly winter redfish tactic as well.
Both redfish and sea trout are willing to ambush a topwater plug during a mid afternoon flood tide when water and air temperatures are warmest. A red and white Mirr-O-Lure "Top Dog" worked slowly over flooding oyster bars is key.
Some of Amelia Island's best winter bottom fishing comes from FA live bottom, which is an approximate 45-minute boat ride from the mouth of the St. Mary's inlet. FA fish haven, also frequently referred to as the "Fernandina Snapper Grounds", is located some eight miles offshore of the St. Mary's jetty rocks and with a 135° heading. GPS coordinates, 30-38.13'N/ 81-13.22'W and average water depth is 65-70 feet. FA live bottom is also a part of the massive fault that runs north to south from eight to ten miles offshore of Northeast Florida. Here a series of one to three-foot lime rock ledges make an excellent habitat for not only gag grouper, but also a variety of pelagic saltwater game fish. Amazingly, FA live bottom entails some two square miles of rough bottom where finding the right grouper ledge is key.
It is extremely important to anchor your fishing boat on the first try so that a dragging anchor does not spook reef fish below. After locating the ledge with your fishing boat's GPS, navigate some 400 feet upwind and current of the structure, continually taking into consideration the direction of the current. Danford-style anchors work best while letting out 350 feet of 3/4-inch anchor rope. Anchoring the bow over the top of the ledge allows barbed baits to be fished smack down on the deep side of the rock ledge. Keep in mind that anchoring right over the deep side of a ledge is extremely important to your bottom fishing success. If the transom of your fishing boat is anchored more than ten feet away from the deep side of the ledge, your fishing party may only enjoy limited bottom fishing success.
Try fishing right on the bottom with a 6 to 10-oz. lead weight, 50-lb. braided fishing line and a four-foot section of 80-lb. monofilament shock leader. At the business end, a 6/0 kahle hook is attached and barbed to a chunk of cut bait, dead cigar minnow, or live pinfish. During the winter fishing season, deep water fishermen can expect to catch gag grouper, flounder, black sea bass, triggerfish and reef sharks. Red snapper are numerous, but are currently off limits to harvest.
Beach fishing and fishing from the George Crady fishing pier is excellent during the winter for beach whiting, small black drum, bluefish, sea trout and more. For best results, fish right on the bottom with fresh dead shrimp. Key areas of the beach include the small rock jetties located at the southern tip of Amelia Island, and the southernmost point of Amelia Island, where shallow bars offer excellent beach fishing.
Freshwater fishing for largemouth bass during warm spells is excellent in many of the freshwater rivers that connect with both the Nassau and St. Mary's rivers. Some of the better bass rivers include Lofton, Boggy, Thomas' and the Little St. Mary's rivers. Casting a gold rapala during the last of the falling and the first of the incoming tides works best for bigmouth bass that can weigh over the 10-lb. mark! Weightless worms in the black and blue color patterns worked close to shoreline snags and creek mouths is a deadly winter bass fishing technique as well.
For more fishing information please call Amelia Angler Outfitters at 904-261-2870, or visit www.ameliaangler.com. Also be sure to visit www.myfwc.com for fishing current fishing license requirements and regulations.