Every avid angler has traveled in search of new fishing destinations and prized species for a money shot on their wall of fame. Sometimes when you go to far off places you can score big, or go home shaking your head. One thing is for certain, there’s no place like North Florida, one of the premier fishing destinations in the world!
Our local waterways are a pristine ecosystem rich with diversity. The Mayport jetties are one of the longest jetties in the world. Add in multiple inlets, and the Intracoastal Waterway and you have a consistent flow of highways for the fishery to thrive. The mother of it all though is the St. Johns River, which is one of the largest northerly flowing rivers in the world, and is rich with nutrition to provide a breeding ground for a variety of prime species of sporting fish and the bait they feed on!
Variety is the spice of life, and North Florida provides us with seasonal migratory predators ready to send your line screaming throughout the year. During the brief winter months, you can tear up fat sheepshead and trout in numbers. Moving into spring, anglers look forward to the near-shore and offshore action of the cobia/wahoo run, as well as feisty redfish on the flats inshore. Summer is smoker kingfish time as well as the running of the bull reds, flood-tide fishing on the flats, and a huge influx of doormat flounder at the jetties, near-shore wrecks and reefs, and throughout the inshore waterways.
Local tournament/charter guide and co-host of The Outdoors Show on ESPN 1010xl, Captain Kirk Waltz, explained why North Florida fishing is so good.
“We are in a unique position in the United States with the diversity and nutrient filled waters of the St. Johns River,” he said. “I can literally take a charter offshore to catch kingfish in the morning, hit the jetties for big reds and trout on the way in, and then head up river in the afternoon to catch bull-reds and other species all in one day! I have fished all over the coast from New England to the Abacos, and there’s no place like North Florida!
Forage & Fauna
The quality of aquatic life on the First Coast thrives from the brackish north-flowing water of the St. Johns that meets the saline influx of nearly six-foot tidal flows from the Atlantic Ocean every six hours. This convergence creates the perfect cocktail for a plentiful ecosystem. You name it we got it in North Florida when it comes to natural/unnatural structure and vegetation. Coupled with local species of baitfish and Mayport shrimp, this equals the perfect place for resident and migratory fish to reproduce.
Anglers come to the First Coast for world-class fishing events by the droves. Jacksonville holds the record for the largest kingfish, sheepshead, and kayak fishing tournaments in the world! These events draw 400+ anglers per event annually, and many of these anglers travel from far off destinations. These events fill our hotels and support our local restaurants and retailers.
Whenever you travel to different fishing destinations, gaining access to waterways can be limited. That is not the case here as we have 40+ boat ramps and kayak/canoe launches all across North Florida! The ability to access so many fishing points of interest along our waterways gives anglers the advantage of being able to experience everything our fishery has to offer.
It is always nice to expand your angling horizons, but as you’re planning your next destination, someone is plotting a course for North Florida. With seasonal migratory species, an ever-present food source and thriving environment, world-class events, and plenty of water access you can be sure to catch bag limits of fish.