Things are changing fast as we progress into the ladder half of Spring in North East Florida. First, the Leather Back Turtles started appearing on the beaches. Then we had the Blood Worm hatch last week that we experience annually in late March to early April. Now, the Pogey pods are starting to appear, albeit patchy. Now we're seeing big schools of Mullet, Spanish Mackerel and Jack Crevalle in the Inlet and river. Spring has definitely sprung!
A few reports of nearshore Cobia are coming in. Several were caught this week between Vilano Inlet and Jax Beach from water depths between 20 and 40 feet. To find the Manta Rays, run the beach in a zigzag pattern between 20 and 40 foot water depths. The more eyes on deck, the better.
Visability on the beach tends to improve in the later morning hours as the sun reaches a higher position in the sky. That low easterly position produces a lot of glare making Ray spotting difficult. Heading out later comes with a number of added benefits. Those extra hours of sleep for one, and two, the Menhaden pods are much easier to see during late morning with the higher angle of the sun.
As our elders always said, "there's more than one way to skin a cat" and the same can be said about Cobia fishing. You can still catch Cobia on the beach minus having to play bumper boats with the fiberglass armada. Especially on flat weekends when every boat in Jacksonville is on the water. Fishing the Menhaden pods can be an effective way to target Cobia. Send out a flat lined Pogey and a weighted Pogey within an active pod and hang on! Pogey pods are like a slot machine, you never know what you'll find. Especially in the Summer. Drifting the pods also presents an opportunity to employ a chum bag. This can be deadly. For those of us wanting to kick back and appreciate a hassle free day on the water while still having a good shot at a Cobia or two, drift fishing is king.
Another way to target Cobia this time of year is slow trolling on the inlet rip lines. To make the best of this, you'll want to cover the water column. Keeping it simple, you'll want one flat line, one in the mid column and one near the bottom. Medium sized Mullet or Menhaden are good bait options.
Another way to utilize the rips is drift fishing. Especially with todays trolling motor technology. The rips are basically bait highways and all manner of predators cruise them. If you spend enough time with bait in the water, covering the column, odds are good that a cobia or two will cross paths with your baits. An effective way to track whether or not your baits are staying on the color change is the use of Balloon rigs. Position the boat up wind or current, and use your trolling motor to hold a favorable position allowing you to maintain the balloon rigs right on the color change. This is fairly easy to do and produces good fish.
The Sheepshead bite is still going strong in Mayport. The spawn has concluded and the fish have started making their migration offshore. On the way out though, they're fueling up, packing on calories for the run. The Inlet bite has been on fire this week. Captain Steve of Madness Charters has been loading up on them in good numbers. You can catch them on Fiddler Crabs from a basic Carolina Rig or tipped on a Sheepshead jig. If your fishing a Carolina Rig, you'll want to fish vertically, suspending the bait a few inches above the rocks. To fish a Sheepshead jig, you'll be casting the jig towards the rocks and working it back towards the boat while maintaining contact with the bottom. You'll want to cover a lot of area to achieve big numbers. The best tide has been the last half of the out going tide or the first hour of the incomming tide.
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