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Northeast Florida Redfish Hotspots

How and where to catch them


Captain Kirk Redfish

Captain Kirk Redfish

Photo by Ron Brooks
As his eight-pound test line began moving away from him in the current, he set the hook. Several other boats gathered around the end of the jetties could hear the sound of his singing drag. Redfish! The fight was on; and, it would include several long runs, each followed by a lengthy slugfest back to the boat.

Captain Kirk Waltz had put his party on redfish once again on this beautiful June morning. Capt. Kirk fishes Northeast Florida inshore and near shore waters from his 23 foot bay boat and is arguably one of the best in Jacksonville at finding and catching big reds on light tackle.

Today his party was on the jetties at the mouth of the St. Johns River. Tomorrow might find him back on a flat in an estuary creek or in the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). There are that many places to catch reds, and yes, there are that many reds to be caught!

The merits of the net ban can be argued a lot of ways, but one thing is certain. The redfish population in Northeast Florida is back in spades, and with proper management, it will be here for all the years to come.

Finding and catching redfish in Northeast Florida is affected by three factors. First, there has to be forage, and that means the baitfish have to be where you are. No bait – no fish. It’s that simple.

Second, the weather has to be right. Weather in this case means rain. June is a month that can produce periods of heavy rain, and that in turn produces freshwater runoff. When the ICW turns a tannic acid brown color from previous rains, the bait and the fish both take a vacation to better water.

Third, and probably most important is the tide. Certain places can hold a lot of redfish, but only on a specific tidal situation. An outgoing tide on a creek flat pushes the redfish and concentrates them in the creek. Incoming tides around a number of jetties and rock croppings will move the redfish to small eddies in and around the rocks. Knowing the tide and fishing the right area with a given tide can mean the difference in success and failure.

Captain Kirk follows the tide, and quite often will not leave the dock until early afternoon in order to catch the proper tide. As he puts it, “Timing is everything!”

Although Captain Kirk was fishing the end of the jetties on this morning, he also fishes a number of other locations, again, depending on those three important variables, tide, rain, and bait. When the tide situation changes, he heads for the ICW. He fishes the outgoing tide down to low and about the first hour of the incoming tide.

Reds come off the flats and out of the shallow creeks with the outgoing tide. They move with the water and follow the baitfish. Schools and single reds can be spotted working the shallow edges of the ICW as the tide approaches low. It makes for ideal sight casting and fly rod fishing.

Captain Kirk can be found as far north as the St. Marys River jetties in certain situations. These jetties provide clients from Amelia Island an ideal place to hook up with an oversized red.

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