Warming water temperatures are welcomed by both fishermen and game fish during Amelia Island's spring fishing season!
Look for some of the best catches of the year to happen during the spring fishing season, where major baitfish concentrations offer an easy meal for a wide variety of migratory game fish species. Keys to hooking up to excellent Amelia Island spring fishing action is locating warming water temperatures and bait fish schools, which in turn will attract a variety of pelagic game fish.
Hard-fighting black drum, some weighing up to 100 pounds, make their annual spawning migration from late March through the month of May. Some of the best black drum fishing happens along the beaches of Amelia Island right at the footsteps of "Main Beach". Night fishing is very popular for bottom-feeding black drum, and sport fishing boats can often be spotted black drum fishing only a few hundred yards from the surf.
A variety of effective drum baits include large shrimp, conch and crab. Combinations of these baits are often successful when barbed with large 8/0 saltwater hooks and fished right on the bottom with heavy, 50-lb. fishing tackle. Look for the best drum fishing action to occur during a flood tide when warm water temperatures and clean water conditions offer the best black drum bite.
The first of May signals the beginning of gag grouper season. Excellent-eating gag grouper weighing to 25 pounds are frequently landed at Amelia Island's many offshore fish havens, including FA, FC, HH and AH fish havens. One of the best grouper fishing tactics includes fishing right on the bottom with live pinfish, menhaden, mullet, Spanish sardines or grunts. Be sure to use heavy fishing gear paired with 50-lb. braided fishing line.
Reef fishermen can also expect to catch red snapper, black sea bass, small sharks, flounder, amberjack and cobia. Although live pinfish work well for grouper, fresh local squid, cut chunks of Boston mackerel and cut sea bass also work well.
Live bait trolling for king mackerel, cobia, barracuda, amberjack, Spanish mackerel, wahoo, sailfish and the occasional dolphin begins to heat up during late May and early June at many area offshore fish havens located from 10 to 20 miles offshore. Some of the more effective live baits include cigar minnows, menhaden, mullet, greenies and Spanish sardines.
Excellent wahoo trolling action happens during the spring. The "Tuna Patch" live bottom is always a good bet in producing wahoo weighing from 30 to 100 pounds. The "Tuna Patch" is located at a deep turn in the Continental Shelf where water depths drop from 180 to over 1,000 feet of water in less than one mile! Other species of striking fish found here include dolphin, sailfish, king mackerel, barracuda and blackfin tuna.
Inlet fishermen will find plenty of saltwater species of game fish willing to bend a fishing rod at the St. Mary's inlet and rock jetties. Sheepshead, red drum, puppy drum, croaker, yellow-mouth trout, bluefish, tarpon, cobia and sharks are just a few species of fish that school at this fishy inlet.
Surf fishermen will find sea trout, flounder, blues and redfish holding at the new rock jetties located at the southern end of Amelia Island. Surf fishing along the sandy beaches of Amelia Island is also excellent during the spring fishing season for whiting, pompano, sea trout, flounder and more.
Fresh dead shrimp fished right on the bottom and during the last of the flood tide and the first of the falling tide continues to be a deadly surf-fishing tactic. When the pompano are running, sift live sand fleas from the surf and barb to a double "Pompano Rig."
Backwater fishing is excellent for redfish in the Amelia River, bays and tidal estuaries. Gold spoons and in-line spinners work well when the tide is flooding. Try a 1/4-oz. led head jig rigged with a Berkley Gulp Shrimp in the "New Penny" color pattern during low tide.
Sea trout also bite well in the backwaters during a flood tide while floating a live shrimp under a small popping cork. Work the live shrimp over flooded oyster bars, creek mouths and edges of deep sloughs.
Largemouth bass weighing to ten pounds are annually caught and released in many of the local brackish tidal rivers, including Boggy, Thomas, Mills and Lofton creeks. Look for the high falling tide to produce the best action while fishing with live shiners, dark-colored plastic trick worms or silver rapalas.
The St. Mary's and Nassau Rivers harbor excellent striped bass weighing to 20 pounds while trolling with rapalas or simply fishing on the bottom with fresh shrimp. Look for the high incoming and the last of the falling tide to produce the best striper fishing action.
Crabbing is also popular family fun during the spring fishing season. Use a long piece of string and a 4-oz. weight with a chicken neck tied to the tag end of the string. When a slight tug is detected, bring the blue crab slowly to the surface and net. Keep the crabs alive in a bucket of water until time for cooking.
To cook, begin by adding crab boil seasoning to a pot of boiling water, then place the live blue crabs into the pot. Boil the crabs until they turn a bright pink color and enjoy!
Non-Florida residents will need a Florida non-resident saltwater fishing license when fishing or crabbing from land, piers or bridges. If in doubt, visit www.myfwc.com. For more fishing, or charter information, call Amelia Angler Outfitters, 111 Centre Street at (904) 261-2870.