Winter fishing at Amelia Island harbors a variety of bay, tidal river and beach fishing opportunities - particularly when targeting hard-fighting and excellent-eating redfish and sea trout.
Speckled sea trout will be plentiful in both Nassau and Cumberland Sounds during the last of the incoming and the first few hours of the falling tides. Drifting a live shrimp under a popping cork is a deadly fishing tactic for sea trout that can weigh up to ten pounds. I once landed a 12-lb. sea trout while casting a slow sinking "Count Down" rapala!
With this in mind, a variety of lures also work well for winter sea trout including the 52-M Mirror lure in the silver/black and chartreuse color patterns. The D.O.A. plastic shrimp is also a great choice and can also be fished under a "Popping" cork.
Some of the best sea trout waters here at Amelia Island include the rocky shoreline at the mouth of Egan's Creek, the St. Mary's south jetty rocks and the oyster shore line located on the east side of Tiger Island. The little jetties at the very southern tip of Amelia Island is also an excellent sea trout structure.
Other key trout hot spots include the mouth of Sawpit Creek, where a shallow sandbar drops off into a deep hole at the Nassau Sound Bridge. Winter trout fishermen typically drift live shrimp deep under a trout float from an anchored fishing boat in water depths ranging from 5 to 20 feet of water.
The George Crady fishing pier at Nassau Sound is also an excellent winter fishing location, while drifting live shrimp under a trout float during the last of the incoming tide. Some of the best trout fishing at this popular fishing spot comes from the northwest corner of the pier.
Fishermen may keep up to five sea trout per day measuring at least 15 inches and not over 19 inches. One of their five fish bag limit may measure over 19 inches.
At both the St. Mary's and Nassau Sounds, jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel and bluefish stage a massive attack on schools of glass minnows schooling close to the surface. Casting or trolling small jigs or spoons offers fast fishing action.
Red fishing is extremely popular during Amelia Island's winter fishing season. Look for a midday falling tide while fishing under boat docks, the deep sides of oysterbars and creek mouths with plastic shrimp barbed to a 1/4-oz. led head jig. One of the all-time favorite color patterns is "New Penny". However, when the water is discolored, the chartreuse color pattern works best. Live baits including shrimp, bullhead minnows and finger mullet, barbed to a 1/4-oz. led head jig and fished slowly along the bottom, is also a deadly winter red fishing tactic.
Fishermen can keep two redfish per day measuring at least 18 inches and not over 27 inches.
Winter fishermen will also find a mixed bag of saltwater species holding at the St. Mary's jetty rocks including sea trout, flounder, whiting, black drum and more. Drifting live shrimp deep under a trout float close to areas of the jetties where low areas of the rocks produce a "Run-Out" is a deadly fishing tactic for trout, flounder and redfish. Fresh dead shrimp fished on the bottom attracts strikes from black drum, red drum, whiting, bluefish and more. Live fiddler crabs or barnacles fished close to jetty rocks can net sheepshead weighing to nine pounds.
Lofton Creek, located only a few minutes west of Amelia Island, is overlooked by many local bass fishermen, but is considered to be one of the best freshwater bass streams in the south. Fishermen have easy access to this narrow tidal river from a boat ramp and park located on AIA and Lofton Creek. You won't have to navigate too far down river, as some of the best trophy bass fishing in Lofton Creek begins right at the boat ramp and runs some two miles down river. Expect to catch striped bass and a mixed bag of saltwater game fish where salt and freshwater mix.
Offshore fishing is excellent during the winter fishing season for hard-fighting gag grouper, red snapper and black sea bass at many of the close to shore natural and artificial fish havens. Some of the best bottom fishing action can be enjoyed while fishing right on the bottom with local squid, cut baits and cigar minnows. Deep jigging with light tackle is also becoming very popular while tipping jigs with squid to entice a variety of bottom species.
Schultz's Fish Market is located some five miles offshore of the south end of Amelia Island and harbors some of northeast Florida's very best winter bottom fishing. Here, drift-fishing boats will find a natural lime rock bottom, numerous two to three-foot rock ledges and man-made reefs. Other popular fish havens for winter bottom fishing include East FC, HH, AH, RL FA and KBY. All of these popular offshore fish havens are identified on the local offshore chart with coordinates. Be sure and pick up a copy of the Florida Wildlife Commissions fishing rules and regulations on fishing. There are currently several new regulations for current seasons and bag limits. You can visit www.myfwc.com(link is external) for updated fishing regulations.
Northeast Florida's Gulf Stream harbors excellent fishing for fast-swimming wahoo that can weigh over the 90-lb. mark. Look for some of the best wahoo action to come while trolling in water depths from 200 to 1000 feet of water. Large "Drone" spoons rigged to wire lines and trolling weights help get the lure down deep to the water depths where winter wahoo are typically holding.
Surf fishing during the winter produces excellent catches of beach whiting and blues along the beaches of Amelia Island. Fresh shrimp is the bait of choice when fished right on the bottom with a "Fish Finder" setup. Look for the high falling tide to offer some of the best fishing on foot, particularly when a flood tide arrives at mid morning. Key areas to surf fish along Amelia Island's pristine beaches include the old "Pipe Line", the little jetty rocks located at Fort Clinch and the southern tip of Amelia Island.
Non-Florida residents under the age of 16 will need to purchase a Florida saltwater fishing license when fishing from land or bridges. You may purchase a license over the phone by calling 1-888-347-4356. For more fishing and charter information call (904) 261-2870, visit our store at 111 Centre Street or log on to www.ameliaangler.com.