Fishing Variety Abounds
When most people come to the coast of Florida, they either choose to fish offshore or they want to fish the flats. It is what we are known for and I enjoy both of those fishing techniques. However, there are plenty of other fishing options available too. These options may be better depending on an angler's ability and also whether or not they can handle some of the rougher conditions we can face during winter into spring. During these times, passing fronts can create strong winds that seem to swing every heading on a compass and this can make it difficult to enjoy fishing offshore or sight fishing the flats. So, what are the other options?
The saltwater side of fishing still holds plenty of opportunity by fishing inshore structure. On these trips, we are targeting mangrove snapper, sheepshead, black drum, seatrout, snook, and grouper. Of course, you never know what is going to eat
and you can wind up with jacks, ladyfish, tarpon, and more picking up the offering and giving you some rod bending action. While some people will refer to these types of trips as "kid's fishing", I refer to them as fun fishing. Whether you want to use bait or artificial baits, it is a relaxing style of fishing that allows anglers to kick back a little and just enjoy the day. Most times you do not have to worry about whether or not you rock the boat or if your cast is perfectly accurate; unlike the stealthy fishing required when targeting tailing redfish on the shallow flats. This type of fishing can also result in catching some great dinner. All of the fish that we target are great when cooked fresh. if you don't feel like cooking them that night, I can even point to a couple of local restaurants that will take your cleaned fish and cook them for you. My favorite fish for the dinner plate: Mangrove Snapper. These tasty little morsels are sweet, light and flaky. They taste great fried and make wonderful fish sandwiches. Unlike the fish on the flats, which I rarely keep, these fish have very sustainable numbers and I do not feel bad for taking a limit home.
Perhaps the most overlooked fishing we have inshore is grouper fishing. Here we slow troll large baits along the drop offs and wait. Although it can be a little tedious while waiting, when a fish hits you better be ready. This isn't finesse fishing, it is all about getting the fish out of their lair and bringing them to the boat. 20 pound offshore-style rods are used and anglers can never hesitate to pull as hard as they can. The average grouper is about 20 pounds, but we also get some goliath groupers over 50 pounds. We've seen bigger, but we've never won that battle. While you cannot keep a goliath grouper, they are still fun to catch. For this fishing, it is all about knowing where to troll and having the right gear. I utilize my bigger boat for this style of fishing, as most anglers cannot hold a rod in their hand for trolling over long periods of time.
This time of year is also a great time for the freshwater side of Florida fishing. In fact, this is the time of year that my personal fishing is almost exclusively done along the St John's River and local lakes. Here, I target largemouth bass, crappie, a variety of panfish and various catfish. There is something very relaxing about enjoying a day of fishing on the
St John's River. Maybe it is the smell of the sweet water, the stunningly beautiful sights, or the fast-paced action that can take place if you find the right spot. It is hard to find a more magical place that can transport you back to Old Florida and provide more opportunities to see a wide variety of Florida wildlife: gators, deer, hogs, bobcats, birds of every type, otters, and more. The catching of fish is almost a bonus compared to what you see. Still, it's a bonus that I love. There is something about a largemouth bass crushing a topwater lure, crappie smacking a small jig on ultralight gear, or the flying acrobatics of American or hickory shad as they leap after being hooked. Looking for dinner? This is another trip that can provide plenty of wonderful eating.
I cannot forget to mention one of my favorite trips to make and the season is just starting. Bowfishing tilapia is one of the most challenging and exciting trips that I offer. Bowfishing combines all of the aspects of stalking prey, sight fishing, and bow hunting, rolled into one adventure. The tilapia we target are wild fish, brought to Florida decades ago to help with plant control, and they have spread throughout the state. Listen, I will say this only once: no matter what you read on the internet, these fish are real, and they are wonderful to eat, as long as they are wild. Tilapia grow to large sizes and our average fish is over 5 pounds, with many approaching 10 pounds. Equipment used is a personal preference and I use both compound bows and recurve bows. My compound bow is a 70 pound draw and allows me to target fish in areas where fish are extra spooky. My recurve bow is 60 pound draw, but utilizes bigger arrows and requires closer distances to insure good penetration. Tilapia are wary and require the angler to be extremely stealthy in their approach. Oh yeah, I don't cheat and do this adventure at night, where you blind fish with lights and shoot them next to the boat. I stalk these fish, wading the lakes they like to bed in. This is what makes it challenging and rewarding at the same time. These trips do require anglers to have their own bow, as draw lengths vary too much for me to have equipment for everyone. However, If you happen to have a 28"-31" draw, I probably have a bow you can utilize.
Florida is full of opportunities to enjoy the water. You just need to decide what adventure sounds like it would fit you best. I love doing them all and would love to share my knowledge with you in these areas. If you are ready to enjoy some outdoor time and have a great day on the water, contact me! Beginners to experts, I'm happy to take anyone out!