It's an exciting time right now with the arrival of late Spring fishing opportunities.
We didn't get much of a Cobia run this year with a limited number of reports coming in so far. A few are being caught on the beach with most reports being single fish catches. We have a lot of Manta Rays with no fish on them.
On the up side, other fish are showing up in good numbers. The Spanish Mackerel are here thicker than ever and big ones at that! Most are being caught trolling Sabiki Straws with a trailing Clark Spoon. You can cover the column by use of either small plainers or with trolling weights. A simple two rod spread with one rig on the surface and one in the mid column will more than suffice. You'll find big numbers of Spanish on the tips of the Mayport Inlet Jetties, in the Chum Hole just north of the Inlet, and in the Menhaden pods all over the beach. The Menhaden are all over the beach from Ponte Vedra, on north through Fernandina. You'll find them between 20 and 40 feet of water.
We're already seeing the Tarpon on the beach and in the Inlet right now. To most, this is about the earliest we've ever seen them show up in our waters. Several were spotted rolling in the Menhaden pods as well as in the Mayport Inlet. There has even been a report of a hook up with one in Jax Beach.
The King Mackerel have been on our nearshore reefs for a number of weeks now. Most are snakes under 3 feet long. With the Arrival of both Tarpon and Spanish, we can likely expect the Kings to start showing up on beach any day now.
The Bull Reds are the "oddball out" right now. Normally, we would be catching good numbers of Bull Reds in the river, from the Little Jetties Park to Dames Point Bridge. So far, they've been few and far between. We're still getting a few, but the bite has been slow going. What little we have been finding are coming out of Mayport Inlet around the tips of the jetties. They have been eating Menhaden and cut Blue Crab with the majority hitting the Menhaden. We can expect the Bulls to make a bigger appearance in the river soon. Once the sharks start stacking in the Inlet, the Reds will move up river to gather for Pre Spawn.
The big Speckled Trout are the hot commodity right now. The large females have started showing up down river, from Blount Island as far east as Mayport Inlet. Most are being caught around rock piles between 4 to 10 feet of water. You'll have to be thorough about covering the water column if you want the best shot at catching the bigger fish. Many are suspended right now, feeding on the large schools of Mullet that are on the surface. Slip Corks are deadly with the ability to adjust depth and cover many yards of river bank. Pick a depth, drift the cork, if nothing bites, make a depth adjustment and try again. Another effective method right now is flat lining a live finger Mullet. No weight at all. Pitch it against the structure you're fishing and walk the Mullet down the bank with the reel in free spool. This way your covering ground and the Mullet acts as a wounded straggler separated from it's school. If any predators are around, you'll know it quickly!
Ever caught a Blue fish close to 40 inches long? well they are everywhere this year! The river banks from the Inlet to Trout River are covered in them right now. Anywhere you would expect to find schools of Mullet are holding these giants. Especially from the Little Jetties onward to the West Chicopit Creek mouth. You can't miss them blowing up bait on the surface.
When all else fails, load up on Mango's! The Mangrove Snappers are here thick this year! Many limits are being caught. sizes ranging from 9 to 15 inches. The Little jetties in particular are crawling with them. The commercial docks around Blount Island are also hot with big Mango's. You can also expect to pick off some good sized fish around the residential docks along the North bank, between the Mayport fairy and Blount Island. Live Shrimp on a Sheepshead jig are deadly, as well as a Carolina rig baited with small Finger Mullet.
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