Saltwater fishing action during the summer is highlighted by live bait trolling with a variety of baits including menhaden, blue runners and mullet. Exciting kingfish strikes can happen along the pristine beaches of Amelia Island during the high flood tide, where kingfish weighing to 40 pounds typically feed on large pods of menhaden and mullet in the surf.
Dead baits, including rigged ballyhoo, silver mullet or ribbonfish, can also tempt summer kingfish when slow trolled along Amelia's beaches and at both fishy inlets.
Live and dead bait trolling along the beaches will also produce catches of sharks, cobia, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jack crevalle and the occasional barracuda.
Chum fishing for "Silver Kings" along the beaches and inlets offers exciting big fish action. Use ground or cut pieces of chum to set up a deadly chum slick for kingfish, tarpon, cobia, jack crevalle and a variety of pelagic sharks. Look for tarpon to offer an airborne fight once hooked, which offers great photo and video opportunities. During recent summer fishing seasons, tarpon weighing over the 200-lb. mark have been caught and released.
Inlet fishing at both the Nassau and St. Mary's inlets during the summer is best for cobia, red drum, black drum, kingfish, tarpon and sharks. Fishing from an anchored boat while fishing right on the bottom with live mullet or menhaden is key when targeting big-game inlet fish.
Light-tackle fishing along the St. Mary's jetty rocks during the slow-moving tide produces a grab-bag catch of flounder, redfish, puppy drum, sea trout, whiting and delicious-eating sheepshead. Working a 1/2-oz. led head jig and live shrimp slowly along the deep edges of the jetty rocks is key for many of these excellent-eating species. When live shrimp are not available, barb a 3-inch Berkley Gulp shrimp tail onto a 1/2-oz. led head jig and hang on! Sheepshead will take a live fiddler crab barbed to a #1 Kahle hook. Pinch a large split shot weight just above the hook so that the live fiddler crab sinks slowly down along the rocks.
Amelia Island deep sea fishermen have plenty of options during the warm summer months, where red snapper, gag grouper, triggerfish and cobia showcase wreck, live bottom and rock ledge fishing. Be sure to bring a 20 to 30-lb. class spinning outfit rigged with a bucktail jig when inquisitive cobia swim right up to your boat!
Fishing right on the bottom with live cigar minnows, pinfish, mullet or menhaden, while making a slow drift or anchoring directly over the bottom structure will yield the best results. Fifty-pound fishing tackle is a must when hooking giant reef fish and reeling them up and away from the dangers of the deep-water structure. Visit www.myfwc.com for the current reef fishing regulations.
Live bait trolling offshore is also exciting during the summer. A variety of striking fish including Atlantic sailfish, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, dolphin, wahoo, blackfin tuna, cobia, barracuda and amberjack can produce an exciting battle at sea.
One of the more productive offshore fish havens is FA fish haven, which is located only eight miles offshore from the St. Mary's jetty rocks. FA fish haven includes several large areas of hard bottoms, paired with lime rock ledges and sunken wrecks. The "FA Barge" almost always holds rod-bending game fish. Other popular offshore fish havens include FB, FC, HH, the Nassau Bottom and AH reefs. These popular fishing waters are marked with GPS coordinates on local offshore fishing charts.
Summer backwater fishing for redfish and sea trout is excellent. And topwater fishing is definitely heart-stopping! By far the best time of year to target both redfish and sea trout with surface lures is during the summer, when water temperatures have warmed up into the low 80s.
However, tides and water clarity become major factors when targeting northeast Florida's trout and redfish. The best tide is a high, incoming tide that arrives just after sunrise. Here, clear water conditions allow both redfish and sea trout to easily locate your surface plug. The high falling tide also offers excellent topwater opportunities.
Another key factor when targeting topwater trout and reds is the availability of baitfish. Look for schooling menhaden, mullet and glass minnows, and you will find trout and redfish nearby. Some of the more productive surface plugs includes the Storm "Chug Bug" and Mirr-o-lure's "Top Dog". Best color patterns include black back/white belly, red head/white body, or chartreuse back/white belly.
Summer surf fishing along Amelia Island beaches produces catches of pompano, whiting, puppy drum, sea trout, redfish, flounder, bluefish and more. Fishing on the bottom with fresh shrimp, live sand fleas, cut pieces of blue crab or fresh squid is key. Best tide includes the last of the incoming and all the falling tide. Look for some of the best surf fishing action to come from where waves are breaking over shallow bars in the surf, or where run-outs have created a deep slough nearby. A real hot spot is the small rock jetties located at the southern tip of Amelia Island.
Major summer fishing events include the 37th Annual Fernandina Beach Fishing Rodeo August 2-4 and the 39th Annual Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament July 16-19.
Non-Florida residents 16 and older will need to purchase a Florida non-resident saltwater fishing license when fishing from shore, piers, bridges and from a boat. This also includes crabbing. For more fishing and charter information, call Amelia Angler Outfitters, 111 Centre Street, (904) 261-2870.