Local fishermen will be sharpening their hooks for the annual drum fishing season, beginning a week before and right on the full moon in March. Black drum weighing up to 100 pounds will be spawning in Cumberland Sound, at the tip of the St. Mary's jetty rocks and just off the Main Beach area where Atlantic Avenue and South Fletcher Avenue intersect. Fishing right on the bottom with half a blue crab paired with a piece of conch and fresh shrimp is a deadly black drum fishing tactic. Tides are also critical, with the last of the incoming and the first of the outgoing tides producing the best black drum fishing action.
Without a doubt, some of the absolute best fishing action during recent years has come in the shallow surf just a few hundred yards offshore from Main Beach. Night fishing here for big drum is also very productive. Black drum grow big at Amelia Island, often reaching weights of over 80 pounds. David Cartwright holds the Florida all-tackle black drum record with a weight of 96 pounds! The big drum was landed right off the Main Beach area.
A big freshwater bass spawn takes place in April in local freshwater and brackish rivers, lakes and small ponds. Look for the full moon to be the time for some of the best fishing action, when largemouth bass will be seeking shallow, sandy bottoms to spawn. Casting weightless plastic worms and surface plugs is typically the best bass fishing tactic when fishing for large, spawning female bass.
Some of my favorite local bass waters include the upper reaches of Boggy Creek, where deep turns in this popular tidal river have shallow, lily pad shorelines where bass fishing is excellent. Rigging a large wild shiner under a small float and fishing close to cover is the best fishing tactic for catching trophy largemouth. Take a photo with your cell phone and release your trophy bass for future generations to enjoy!
Bottom fishing for gag grouper, red snapper, black sea bass, triggerfish and cobia is excellent during the spring. In recent spring fishing seasons, bottom fishermen have been catching red snapper at the Elton Bottom weighing well over the 20-lb. mark. Large snapper are often called "Mule" snapper and are taken readily while fishing deep with live minnows. Be sure and visit www.myfwc.com to find which game fish are eligible for harvesting.
Giant kingfish should also be running this spring at the Elton Bottom. Jig up large, live blue runners off the deep rock ledges, then live bait troll them over the ledges.
FA, FC, AH and HH fish havens are closer to shore and harbor excellent spring bottom fishing as well. Fish on the bottom with fresh local squid, cut baits or live minnows.
A major run of cobia also takes place during the spring fishing season. Cobia can be targeted at local offshore reefs, holding under rays, under menhaden schools and close to channel markers. Cobia normally weigh between 30 and 50 pounds, they put up a respectable fight and are excellent eating, too!
Jetty fishermen can expect a mixed bag catch of puppy drum, redfish, sea trout, bluefish, flounder, sheepshead, jack crevalle and whiting. It pays to bring along a variety of both dead and live baits, including live shrimp, live bullhead minnows, fresh shrimp and cut baits.
Surf fishing is excellent for "beach whiting" along the beaches of Amelia Island. Fish on the bottom with a double hook rig. Bait the upper hook with a fresh shrimp and the lower hook with a piece of cut bait. Look for the last of the flood and the first few hours of the falling tides to produce the best surf fishing action.
Pompano, bluefish, sea trout, flounder, redfish, puppy drum and small sharks also run in the surf too!
Giant sea trout are typically taken during the spring fishing season when they are fattening up for their annual spawn. Seasoned trophy speck fishermen often cast surface plugs including the "Chug Bug", "Skitter Walk", "Top Dog" and the "Devil's Horse".
Blue water fishing boats will be targeting excellent-eating dolphin, wahoo, tuna, sailfish and the occasional blue marlin. Trolling high speed lures at 18 knots is key for catching fast-swimming wahoo that will literally empty a large spool saltwater reel within a blink of an eye. Wahoo can weigh up to 100 pounds. The Continental Shelf is located some 65 nautical miles offshore of Amelia Island, which requires long boat rides under ideal weather conditions.
Crabbing is popular family fun during the spring months on Amelia Island. Tie a chicken part to the end of a long section of kite string, along with a 4-oz. weight to get the bait down on the bottom. When a slight tug is detected, bring the crab slowly to the surface and net. Keep your crabs alive in a bucket of saltwater until it is time to cook them.
For delicious eating, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add crab seasoning. Next, place the live crabs in the pot of boiling water and cook until the crabs turn a bright pink in color. Enjoy!
Non-Florida residents over the age of 16 will need to purchase a saltwater fishing license when fishing from land, boats, or piers. This does include crabbing!
For more fishing and charter information, call Amelia Angler Outfitters at (904) 261-2870, stop by our store at 111 Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach, or visit www.ameliaangler.com.