Jacksonville Paddle Fishing Report (with a Mosquito Lagoon bonus!)

jacksonville paddle fishing report

Photo courtesy Mike Conneen.

Spent the week paddling and fishing in Jacksonville, doing research. Hey, some one has to do it. So we have a Jacksonville Paddle Fishing report!

Monday woke up well before the alarm went off. It was set way too early for comfort anyway. Hopped in the chariot and drove to Hilliard. The plan was to fish the St. Marys River. Seemed like a good plan. New stuff!

jacksonville paddle fishing report

The St. Marys is definitely scenic.

Launched the Ocean Kayak before sunrise (after driving three hours). Didn’t have a shuttle so would paddle upstream on an out-and-back. The weather was fantastic- clear, cloudless sky, chilly enough for a hoodie, no wind, gorgeous.

Saw what I thought were the three strangest-looking birds out on the water, couldn’t figure out what they were. Once they reached the bank and climbed out I could see they were three does, had to laugh at myself. Birds! Silly John! Never saw swimming deer before, way cool.

jacksonville paddle fishing report

There were fantastic roots and stumps all along the riverbank.

Didn’t see many fish swimming either. Guppies are fish if you want to be technical. Saw a rolling gar every now and again. Did not see a bass, or a sunfish. No ospreys, or wading birds. No turtles, or alligators. The river is picturesque, but there weren’t any fish. Won’t be back.

Tuesday launched off Hecksher Drive for some saltmarsh redfishing. Tide was almost dead low. Paddled for ten minutes before seeing my first reds. They were in water so shallow I could not get within casting range. The boat was on the bottom, and the ploof mud made sure I stayed in the boat.

jacksonville paddle fishing report

Once the kayak floated off the bottom the cast was well made.

I watched and waited for the tide to rise an inch or so. When it did I got close enough and made a cast to one of those fish, and it jumped right on the slider. Nice!

jacksonville paddle fishing report

Slider redfish!

The scene repeated itself a few minutes later. I was not on my game though, blowing shots and missing strikes. Got two reds, should have had quite a few more.

When the tide got too high I loaded up the kayak and went to Fort George Inlet, where it got launched again. It took longer to find fish this time, but once located there were a lot of them. I tried the slider, a Clouser Minnow, and a crab fly. Got a couple looks but no takers.

Cheating, I switched to a spin rod, trying a jig and a DOA Shrimp. Those did not elicit any more interest that did the flies. Easily threw to 30 fish without an eat.

I fished until the top of the tide, then gave it up.

jacksonville paddle fishing report

Mike battles another redfish in the salt marsh.

Wednesday morning Mike Conneen joined for some early morning low tide redfishing. We left the launch, still off Hecksher Drive, just as the sun busted over the horizon. We crossed the creek, to the north side. We found tailing redfish immediately. One fish took my Redfish Bite on the first cast. Welcome to Jacksonville!

jacksonville paddle fishing report

Redfish Bite red!

It would be nice to be able to say, “Then it got better.” While that would be an exaggeration, fishing was solid all morning, with tailers, crawlers, fish busting, all the feedy kinds of behaviors fishermen love to see. Mike used a shad tail, I the Redfish Bite. We didn’t have overwhelming numbers but each of us had shot after shot. We ended up with eight or so between us before the oysters were covered.

jacksonville paddle fishing report

Mike the Redfish Man.

We pulled the boats and drove to Guana Dam. We did not fish there, but did appreciate the beauty. We think that fishing there would be awesome and discussed returning at some point. Then we hit the road.

jacksonville paddle fishing report

Redfish release…

Friday (this is the Mosquito Lagoon bonus!) I launched the Mitzi at Beacon 42 at sunrise. The weather was great, although it was blustery. The water looked terrible, brown and turbid. At the first spot the thought stayed in my head, “If I see a fish it will be a miracle.” It was just another example of how truly blessed I am.

Some gulls were diving. This reporter went to investigate. Under the birds was a small redfish school, 15 or so fish. First cast- BAM, on the shad tail. As it turned out it was the best fish of the day, maybe the week, five pounds or so.

jacksonville paddle fishing report

Used a shad tail to fool this fish and a couple more.

The rest of those fish disappeared. The search mission, powered by MinnKota, continued.

Twenty minutes later I found three reds in one area. Got one not-very-good cast off, did not convert.

Fifteen minutes later found a series of reds along a shoreline. The light hit one just right to spot it at a reasonable distance. The cast was good. The shad strikes again! All the other shots did not work, all pooch jobs by yours truly.

jacksonville paddle fishing report

Obviously not a spoonbill.

Came around a corner and saw something amazing. A large, pink bird that was clearly not a spoonbill was standing in the water. I got the camera out and got some not very good pictures of the third flamingo I’ve seen here since 1984. AND there was an otter there too. AND there was a little clump of tailing reds there too. Pooched that shot as well.

Tried a different area, got three dink trout by blindcasting a jig.

Tried an area I have not checked in a couple years. Immediately saw a tailing red and got it on the shad. The thought came, “You should try the fly rod.” I listened.

Got two more on fly before loading the boat at 1 PM. Darned good morning in spite of the wind and dirty water.

That is the Jacksonville Paddle Fishing Report! Thanks for reading!

Life is great and I love my work!

Life is short- Go Fishing!

John Kumiski
www.spottedtail.com

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