It's that time of year again, the air is humid, storms pop up every afternoon and it's hot! So is the fishing!
There is a lot of different fishing to be had, between Sharks and Tarpon in the Inlet, Slot Reds in the Creeks and around the jetties, Flounder in the river and on the flats and of course, monster big, Bull Reds in the St. Johns River channels.
The Big, breeder Red Fish have started their annual movement up river from the St. Johns River Inlet in anticipation of spawning season. These fish begin staging on the 40+ foot dredge lines that edge the shoulders of the rivers shipping lanes every June. This period is what we call the "Pre-Spawn". The breeders gather up in numbers and gorge on fish and crustacions to fatten up for the spawn that typically begins in the early weeks of August. The weeks from June, on through early August are the best time to catch these massive fish in large numbers. Bulls at this time average 40 inches in length with larger fish potentially reaching 50+ inches in length. In terms of weight, they average 30+ pounds and reach up 60 pounds.
We target Bull Reds with a combination of cut fish and split or whole Blue Crab. Live baits such as Menhaden or medium sized Mullet will also produce good numbers of healthy Bulls. The difference between an average day and a banner one is "Bait Diversity". Bring multiple forage options as Red Fish tend to be fickle and have moods where they'll favor particular baits at random times. One day, you may catch 12 fish on cut Mullet, without a sniff on Blue Crab the entire day and the next day, they may only want Blue Crab or live Menhaden. It's like this more often than you might think.
Now for the Tackle, we implore anglers to go heavy when targeting these breeder, stock Reds. By heavy, I mean King Fish or Cobia tackle. 40 pound class rods paired with either 6000-7000 series spinning reels, or 15-25 size conventionals. 50-65 pound braided line or mono is the prefered main line. The same goes for Mono or Flourocarbon leader. The prefered rigging is a hand tied Dropper Rig. I tie my own and the rig consists of a 3 way swivel, leader attached to a 7/0-8/0 Circle Hook. I run a short peice of 50 pound leader to one of the swivel connections and tie a None Slip Loop to the other end. This system allows me to change or remove my bank sinkers without cutting line. I slide the loop through the eye of the Bank Sinker and wrap the loop around the weight. When it comes time to call it a day, I can take off the weights and stow them without fear of them swinging around causing injuries or damage to my gear. Work smarter, not harder.
I'll typically run four rods, 2 baited with Blue Crab, 2 baited with cut fish. Ill pair the types together side by side. for example, the longs will be baited with cut Mullet, and the shorts will be baited with Blue Crab. I run them uniform like this so that I always know what bait the fish are biting. Once I see a consistent bite pattern, Ill go with 3 of the bait that's getting hit and only run 1 of the baits not getting hit. These fish will often change forage out of the blue and you need to keep at least one alternative bait in the water.
The Trout bite is good towards down town Jacksonville on structure 3-8 feet deep above hard bottom such as shell bottom or rocky bottom. I catch mine on Rapala X-Raps or SlayerInc SSB's or SST's in Goldfinga or Pepper Death color pattern.
The Flounder have started coming into the river and can be found on just about any shallow, river shoulder or creek mouth from the Inlet all the way towards Ortega. Creek flats hold plenty of Flounder as well. Fish around Oyster Bars, finger creek mouths or up against grass edges. If you see Mullet schools around, odds are good a Flounder or two are stalking them. I catch Flounder on Berkley Gulp, Swim Tail Mullet in Pearl White or Multed color patterns. I've also been successful catching them on Rapala X-Raps while targeting Trout and Slot Reds.
I've been booked solid and there were way too many pics to post so I Pic-Stitched a couple collages together.
If you would like to see my fishing report video, check it out by clicking the link below:
Florida inshore charter fishing. Jacksonville fishing charters. Mayport fishing charters.