Huge black drum weighing to 100 pounds are the main attraction for Amelia Island spring fishermen. A multitude of area waters, including bays, beaches, jetties and deep rivers, are teeming with hard-fighting black drum.
A big freshwater bass spawn also takes place during the spring in local freshwater and brackish rivers, lakes and small ponds. Trophy-sized bass can hit fishing scales at over 10 pounds!
Blue water fishing boats will be targeting excellent-eating dolphin, wahoo, tuna, sailfish and the occasional blue marlin. The Contenental Shelf is located some 65 nautical miles offshore of Amelia Island, which requires long boat rides under ideal weather conditions.
Backwater bays and tidal rivers will be teeming with redfish, sea trout, flounder and more. Simply said, the spring fishing season at Amelia Island offers some of the best all-around fishing of the year.
Black drum grow big around Amelia Island, often reaching weights of over 80 pounds. David Cartwright holds the Florida all-tackle black drum record of 96 pounds. The big drum was landed off Fernandina Beach's "Main Beach".
Red drum fishing also picks up in early spring at both inlet mouths of Amelia Island. Red drum can also grow big, often weighing well over 30 pounds.
Both black and red drum are typically caught while fishing right on the bottom with blue crabs, large dead shrimp, or conch. Some of the favorite fishing waters for black drum include the St. Mary's north and south jetty rocks, "Main Beach" and the Nassau Sound. Look for the best action to come just before and right on a full moon, which arrives on March 13th and on April 11th. Night fishing on a flooding tide is also key when targeting trophy-sized black drum.
Blue water fishermen will be targeting wahoo this spring at northeast Florida's continental shelf. Trolling with plastic lures, including the "Wahoo Whacker", "American Express" the "C&H" and "Cedar" plugs works best. Expect to find dolphin, sailfish, blue marlin and blackfin tuna where the continental shelf gives way to water depths of well over 1,000 feet.
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. These 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 from 30 to 50 pounds and put up a respectable fight. They 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 run in the surf, too!
Backwater fishing is excellent during the spring months for schooling redfish. Look for redfish to school during the flood tide over flooded marshes, and during low tide phases, in depressions located on flats and bays. The Johnson gold spoon, inline spinners, topwater plugs and Berkley Gulp shrimp are all excellent lures for redfish.
Be sure to purchase a backwater-fishing chart from a local tackle shop so you can motor straight to the best red fishing waters.
Giant sea trout are typically taken during the spring 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."
Historically, Tiger Basin, Nassau Sound and Lanceford Creek have given up their share of "gator-sized" specks that can weigh up to ten pounds!
Backwater fishermen expecting fast fishing action should purchase a live baitwell full of shrimp and fish them under a "Cajun Rattlin" float. Cast this deadly setup close to flooded marshes, oyster bars and sandbars and get ready to catch a wide variety of saltwater game fish!
If your fishing pleasure is on foot, the George Crady and the Fort Clinch fishing piers offer excellent pier fishing. During the spring, it's not unusual for fishermen to land black drum weighing from 15 to 40 pounds from these fishy piers!
Without a doubt, the spring fishing season is the best time of year for targeting trophy-sized largemouth bass. There are several freshwater rivers located in our small corner of northeast Florida that, every spring, give up their share of bass weighing to ten pounds.
Some of the best trophy largemouth bass fishing comes during the high tide phases and the first few hours of the falling tide. One of the best fishing techniques for trophy bass continues to be drifting wild shiners under a small float along shoreline cover. Bass lures include the Bomber "Long-A", gold Rapala and dark-colored "Finesse" plastic worms.
Some of the more productive freshwater streams include Lofton, Boggy, Mills, Nassau and both the big and little St. Mary's Rivers. These freshwater tidal rivers experience very little fishing pressure, so enjoy your day of "Bassin"!
Freshwater river fishermen can also expect to catch stripers, redfish, seatrout, catfish and even flounder in some of the saltier portions of the rivers.
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, located at 111 Centre Street, (904) 261-2870, or visit www.ameliaangler.com.