Like I’ve said in the past, Florida has more than its fair share of interesting fishing opportunities if you’re willing to drive a little ways from home. My home base of Orlando allows me the luxury of reaching some superb fishing within just a few minutes, or if I want to make a trip of it a few hours. Unfortunately though, there isn’t enough time to get everywhere and sample all the opportunities. Now that my wife and I are empty-nesters, we have a little bit more freedom, and making these little jaunts is much easier than when we had to worry about getting the kids fed and to school on time.
Fishing Jacksonville on the flood tides is something I had only gotten the chance to do one other time, so when we noticed that the fall tides were going to be nearly six feet, my fishing partner and I just had to hit the road. Redfish, black drum, sheepshead, and flounder were calling our names and we had multiple boxes of flies waiting to be thrown. Unfortunately for us, the first “Noreaster” was blowing in and gale force winds were being called for in the open water, with rough conditions on the intercoastal. None of that mattered though when we pulled up to the waterfront and spied mullet being blasted along the spartina grass edges.
Predators move up into the small creeks as the tide rises and then they’ll venture onto what was dry land only moments ago when the tide reaches its highest point. They root around looking for small baitfish, shrimp, crabs, and snails that abound in the grass. At times their bodies will be more out of the water than in. After having read all this you’d almost think catching fish under these conditions would be a pretty simple matter? Well think again!
Bait was clinging to nearly every stalk of grass and there was an almost constant ticking of shells off the sides of our kayaks leading us to believe that fish should be feeding somewhere around us. And they were! Just not on the carefully prepared fly meals we had prepared. Spoon flies and small crab/shrimp/snail imitations are necessary and we had a great selection of them available, but the extreme wind made casting a fly rod all but impossible. The real trick of this fishery is to get the fly to the fish without hanging up in the grass, smacking it on the head, or landing too far away. None of which I was able to accomplish on this most recent trip.
One of the best things about this particular location is the accessibility and relative protection of the surrounding landscape including the grass banks and creeks. You can fish it from canoe, kayak, stand-up-paddleboard, or larger craft if your heart desires. The water conditions can be exceptional even though the wind is howling above your head and ten-foot seas are of little consequence when moving across water that’s only one to two feet deep. The Jax Kayak Fishing.com website has a pretty extensive list of launch sites throughout the area if you can’t find them on your own. Check them out
The opportunity to experience the dramatic transformation of these tidal grass flats was the reason we made the drive even though the conditions and fish conspired against our prospects of having success. Although we didn’t hook up this time, the tide will rise again tomorrow and it will be another chance to cash in on a very unique type of fly fishing.
Brian “Beastman” Eastman