Fall fishing highlights a variety of offshore, nearshore, backwater and freshwater game fish. Falling water temperatures are key with the abundance of a wide variety of baitfish including shrimp and mullet.
Offshore fishermen will be targeting gag grouper that can weigh over the 20-lb. mark while fishing at sunken wrecks and large rock ledges. Some of the better gag grouper hot spots include FA, FC, HH and the Elton Bottom fish havens. Bottom fishermen should beef up their fishing tackle while using 50-lb. class rods, reels and fishing lines. A four-foot section of 80-lb. shock leader is a must with a 5/0 circle hook attached to the business end of the leader using a uni knot. Best baits include fresh squid, live mullet, live menhaden and cut baits.
Bottom fishermen can also expect to catch lots of red snapper, which will need to be released, black sea bass, reef sharks, mangrove and mutton snappers. Be sure to check the latest fishing regulations at www.myfwc.com and safmc.net.
Redfish weighing to 50 pounds will be schooling both at the Nassau and St. Mary's inlets while preparing for their annual spawn. Female redfish will lay their eggs at night during a flooding tide, while nearby male redfish will soon fertilize the eggs. The flooding tide will carry the fertilized redfish eggs far up into the bays and finally into the small feeder tidal estuaries where the eggs will eventually hatch. The fry redfish will remain in the feeder creeks until they are a few inches long, then migrate out into the nearby bays. Once the redfish have reached approximately 30 inches, they will then migrate out into the ocean and spend their adult lives.
The best angling tactic includes fishing right on the bottom with cut baits, squid, crab or fresh shrimp. Redfish will also take top water plugs and plastic baits rigged to a led head jig as well.
The current size limit regulations for Florida redfish is at least 18 inches long and not more than 27 inches long. Northeast Florida recreational fishermen can keep two redfish per day.
Fly fishing for redfish during the fall fishing season is also popular during a full and new moon when the spartina marshes are flooded. Here, wade fishing while casting a crab pattern to tailing redfish may well be the ultimate angling tactic for Florida's most popular game fish!
Sea trout will be running as well in backwater areas. The last of the incoming and the first of the out-going tides will produce the best speck action for sea trout weighing up to 10 pounds. However, the average size for Amelia Island sea trout is from one to two pounds. The best angling tactic for sea trout includes drifting a live shrimp under a small float close to flooding oyster bars, shallow bars, boat docks and deep sloughs.
The best hard bait lures for specks includes the 52-M Mirr-O-Lure, Top Dog and Storm's Chug Bug. Without a doubt, the best sort bait lures for specks includes the D.O.A. shrimp and, Berkley's Gulp shrimp.
Tiger Basin, located at the northern end of Amelia Island at Cumberland Sound, and Simpson's Creek, located at Nassau Sound and the Amelia River, harbor some of Florida's very best sea trout angling. Current Florida fishing regulations for sea trout allow recreational fishermen to keep five specks per day measuring at least 15 inches, with one speck in their bag limit measuring 22 inches or more.
Back country fishing in the waters around Amelia Island for flounder, bluefish, sheep-shead and black drum is also excellent during the fall fishing season.
Beach fishermen will be targeting excellent-eating pompano while fishing with sand fleas or small pieces of conch. Whiting will be schooling as well, and will take a fresh shrimp fished on a double-hook setup. Also look for sea trout and redfish to hold in the surf, particularly during the early morning and late evening hours.
High-speed trolling far offshore in water depths of more than 200 feet will produce fast-swimming wahoo that can weigh over 100 pounds! Best lure includes the C&H "Wahoo-Whacker".
Bass fishing will pick up in the many tidal freshwater rivers located in Northeast Florida while fishing the last of the falling tide with a #11 Rapala or white spinner bait. Swimming a weightless dark-colored plastic worm close to shoreline cover is also a deadly freshwater bass tactic as well. Look for the best freshwater action to come from Lofton and Boggy Creeks.
Crabbing is popular family fun 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!