North East Florida Fishing Nassau Sound
North East Florida is blessed with some of the most
consistently beautiful weather in the US. Our clime
not only attract tourists, but hoards of fish year-round. No
matter what the season, there is always something worth
catching in the waters surrounding North East Florida.
Fishing from the beach
There are quite a number of fishermen and women who either by choice or by circumstance do not fish from a boat. Let's deal with some surf fishing tips and all that goes with this unique form of angling.
Who Surf Fishes
Surf fishermen come in all varieties, but can be just as fanatical as any other fisherman. What some of them lack in the way of a boat they more than make up for in their beach vehicle. Some of these 4WD vehicles are as well equipped as any offshore cruiser when it comes to tackle and fishing equipment. Experienced surf anglers cruise the beach (where allowed, of course) looking for that eddies or runoff, looking for birds working a school of baitfish. They will follow a moving school of bait fish for miles waiting for a school of blues, reds or trout to begin feeding through them.
Rod and Reels
Because surf fishing is a very specialized type of fishing it requires some very specialized tackle. Surf rods from 10 to 12 feet long like the St Croix Premier model, capable of slinging 6 ounces of lead weight plus bait up to 100 yards beyond the breaking surf are seen up and down the beach. A heavy duty spinning reel like the Quantum Boca PT Saltwater model is the usual reel found on these rods. Surf anglers argue regularly as to whether the length of the rod, or the design of the reel, or the size of the rod guides plays the biggest part in achieving long casts.
Sinkers and Weights
The weights used when bottom fishing in the surf vary little, and are usually a multi-ounce pyramid sinker clipped on a drop rig with the bait and leader further up the line. The pyramid sinker shape helps it dig into the bottom and hold the line tight. Other designs are arguably as good, but the pyramid has been the standard sinker for years.
Baits can range from live bait fish of the variety currently running in and beyond the surf, to blood worms, to cut bait, to sand fleas, those relatives of the crab that live in the surf wash just under the surface of the sand. Striper anglers opt for live eels. Artificials work well in schooling fish, once they are feeding. The size of the bait is dependent on the size of the schooling fish, and in general would be some thing that can match the baitfish. Spoons, topwaters, and huge plugs work well. Artificial eels in the surf can be deadly on stripers at certain times.
Where Can I Fish
Surf fishing is possible on any almost any coast worldwide. You may not be fishing from a sandy beach, rather rough ragged rocks, but the baitfish still follow the contour of the shore and the feeding fish will be right in around and under them. Shorelines may vary, but tactics will be the same.Bottom Line:If you don't have a boat, and you want to be exposed to the possibility of some really large fish, try surf fishing. Start up costs is relatively cheap, and fresh fish on the table are hard to beat!
Fishing with the Tide
Getting with the tide tables can help you catch fish!
Being in the right place at the right time is perhaps the most important part of a successful fishing foray. If you aren't where the fish are, you can be assured you will not be catching anything. Water level, water movement, and movement direction all play a vital role in where the fish will be located.
The influence of tidal changes on a fish's feeding and migrating habits can not be understated. They move with the tide and feed at locations that provide them either access to food or the ambush ability at that food. The saltwater coast line of the Southern and Southeastern United States is veined with rivers and creeks coming through saltwater estuaries, oyster beds, and marshes to reach the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico . These estuaries and marshes are the very beginning of the marine food chain for all species of fish.Learning the basics of this food chain can lead to some fine fishing experiences. On a high tide, water will flood the marshes, covering acres and acres with as much as two feet or more of water. Crabs and small baitfish will follow that rising tide to feed on in the shallows. Larger fish, such as redfish, flounder, drum and trout will also follow that rising tide in to feed on these baitfish. High tide in the coastal marsh finds large schools of small redfish on a shallow flat, roaming in search of forage. Individual large reds can be seen tailing as they root for crabs and other crustaceans in the mud.As the tide begins to fall, the water coming off these flats begins to funnel into small channels, leading into larger channels and eventually into the creeks and rivers. Fish sense the dropping water and will move out with the tide to deeper water. These tidal outflows to deeper water are where fishing can be great. As the water drops, oyster bars become visible, and the juvenile crabs can be seen scurrying about the shells. Take note of the life that abounds on the oyster bars. They almost tend to be a self contained ecosystem, with each resident depending on the other for survival. Take note, because the larger fish in the area will definitely take note. Now that we know the fish will be there, let's see how to go about catching them! When it comes to back country and estuary fishing, a high outgoing tide means pure pleasure for me. I know that fish will be concentrating in the tidal outflow areas and moving to deeper holes in the creeks and rivers.I have many creek “holes”, places on the outside bend of a creek where the water is deeper, in many, many creeks. They hold fish most any time of the year, different species at different seasons. Winter finds seatrout in these deep holes. Summer finds the redfish and flounder in the same holes. I start far upstream at slack high tide and begin to fish my way back downstream. Sometimes I will be throwing a bucktail, most often tipped with a shrimp or mud minnow. Other times, I will throw just a jig head with the same tipped bait. I cast and work the bait so that it moves with the current, making sure that it moves through and past the tidal outflow. And more than one cast is in order at each location. Remember, the fish are moving out with the tide, and while a fish may not be there on the first cast, he just may have arrived by the fifth cast. As the tide moves lower, I move a little further with the current. I cast to every little pool and outflow that I come by. Some hold more than one fish. Some don't hold fish. Generally, I find that the outflows, which are close to an oyster bar, will produce better. Plain sand or mud bottom outflows are not usually productive. You need some bottom or an oyster bar. As the tide drops lower the fish begin to look for a deeper hole in the creek. And I do just the same. On a horseshoe bend in a creek, I will tie up or anchor on the upstream, inside edge of the horseshoe. The water will only be a foot or two deep under the boat. But the outside edge of this horseshoe, opposite the boat, will often be over 20 feet deep, sometimes deeper than the creek is wide! The same lures and will work here, but this is where I like to break out the float rigs and live shrimp. I use a float and about a half ounce sinker above an 18 inch leader. I learned to fish this way with floats that were as narrow as one-inch in diameter and as long 12 to 14 inches. I will set the depth of the float to allow the bait to be about a foot off the bottom. I often wondered why these floats were so narrow and so long. The answer is simple when you think about it. The long narrow float presents less resistance to the water when a fish bites. It moves under the water easier and the lack of resistance lets the fish take the bait without being spooked. Cast the rig to the upstream side of the hole, and let the bait drift through with the current. If fish are there, they will be on your hook in short order. Sometimes, they may be off the bottom, suspending in the current. You may have to vary the depth of the bait under the float to find the depth at which the fish are suspending. If one hole plays out, move downstream to another hole. Remember, the fish are moving too, and they usually will move before you do! Just get set up and try again further downstream. Some people set up early in a particular hole and wait for the fish to show up, rather than moving with them. Take care when fishing these creeks on an outgoing tide. You can easily get caught “high and dry” on an outgoing tide. If you do, you will have the pleasure of waiting up to six hours for the incoming tide to float your boat. So pay attention and be ready to move out quickly. Tidal fishing can be great if you find a creek the fish are moving in and move with them. Try it the next time you are fishing inland estuaries.
But there are those shore bound souls who have chosen another lot in life. They choose not to be left out of the fishing scene, and as such they have developed a style and following all their own. These are the pier fishermen and women. Some are affectionately referred to as "Pier Rats." They came in all sizes, all ages, and both sexes. They come with a variety of tackle, some expensive, some worn and taped together. But come they do, with a very special camaraderie.
Pier fishing is an art all its own. The fish, depending on the species, generally come in waves as a school pass through. And the really good pier rats know how to get with the action while the fish are there. Most are bottom fishing, usually with a multi-hook rig weighted on the bottom. Whiting and croaker are caught two and three at a time. The pier rats have a way of knowing just how long to wait to get more than one fish hooked up before reeling in.
Some come for the bigger non-bottom feeding fish like blues, or mackerel or king mackerel. These are the ones at the end of the pier with all manner of contraptions to get a live bait floating just under the surface as far off the end of the pier as possible. I've seen kite rigs that would make Leonardo daVinci proud. Mostly I've seen the two rod approach where the fishing rod is set up with the bail open and the bait is clipped to another lighter rod and cast out. Line leaves the fishing rod and the bait is placed perfectly many yards out from the pier. When a fish hits, the bait rod is yanked free to allow the fisherman to use the big rod for fighting.
The Pier Tackle Box
Any manner of containers on wheels can be found on the pier. After all, the tackle, gear, bait, and rods all need to be toted. These pier fishermen have fostered more innovation than people give them credit for. Many commercial items tailored for the pier fishermen where simply "stolen" designs put through a marketing program. The well equipped pier rat can make one trip from shore to the pier and have everything needed for a lengthy fishing foray.
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