Terry Lacoss / For the News-Leader
There are not too many places in the world where fishermen have such a wide and diverse variety of both fresh and saltwater fishing than Amelia Island. Our family moved to Amelia Island in May of 1973, and since then I have made and witnessed several outstanding catches, including bluewater, bottom fishing, inlet, backwater, freshwater and surf fishing.
As a local fishing store owner, outdoor writer and charter captain, I frequently am asked, “What is the best fishing that Amelia Island has to offer?”
I often reply, “Depends on your fishing interests. We have bluewater, backcountry, offshore, beach, freshwater and jetty fishing. If you have time, I would recommend testing your fishing skills in all of these fishy waters.
“After you have tested Amelia Island’s great diversified fishing opportunities, you might just attest that Amelia Island does have some of the best fishing waters in the Southeast.”
The best fishing Amelia Island has to offer comes from the many tidal rivers, creeks, inlets and beaches. On May 20, 1961, Lynn Joyner was shark fishing from one of the local shrimp boat docks with a large chunk of fish. After a lengthy battle, a huge goliath grouper was roped and pulled up on the dock. It later weighed 680 pounds and is still the Florida all-tackle record.
Larenza Mungin was fishing from the George Grady fishing pier with live finger mullet when he landed a sizeable summer flounder weighing 20.56 pounds. Mungin made his catch on Dec. 23, 1983, and it is still the Florida state record for flounder.
While there are a net full of game fish in the backwaters, beaches and inlets of Amelia Island, black drum fishing is extremely popular during the spring spawning season. On April 12, 2001, James Cartwright boated a 96-pound black drum while fishing from the surf at Main Beach.He was fishing at night with a combination of crab, shrimp and conch, and his big drum fish became a new state record.
Redfish can be targeted year round in the backwaters and both the St. Marys and Nassau inlets, which definitely offer the best light tackle fishing on the fly and with conventional fishing tackle, particularly during the warmer months when an extreme flood tide generated by the moon and a strong nor’easter find redfish tailing in the spartina marshes. Fishing on foot while casting a saltwater fly sets up heart-throbbing fishing action.
Large schools of spotted sea trout also can be found in the backwaters, inlets and beaches all year round as well. Also, look for excellent fishing action for bluefish, jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead and puppy drum.
Surf fishing is also popular for hard fighting pompano, which are the best eating fish in the ocean. Expect to catch whiting, bluefish, flounder, sea trout and redfish as well.
Giant tarpon are plentiful along the beaches and inlets during the warmer months and can weigh well over the 100-pound mark. However, a good, average-size silver king is just under 100 pounds. Other species include cobia, shark, kingfish and large jack crevalle.
Amelia Island also has numerous lime rock ledges and live bottoms within five miles offshore of either the St. Marys or Nassau inlet. Bottom fishing species include red snapper, gag grouper, triggerfish, sea bass and cobia. Trolling with live or dead baits is excellent during the warmer months for kingfish, Spanish mackerel, barracuda, bonito, cobia and the occasional sailfish or dolphin.
Navigating some 60 miles further offshore where water depths drop dramatically from 180-1,000 feet in less than a mile, bluewater fishermen target sailfish, marlin, dolphin and the speedy wahoo. Bottom fishing here is also king for mutton snapper and grouper.
Amelia Island has several small freshwater ponds and lakes where largemouth bass weighing to 15 pounds have been caught and released.
So, the next time you ask what fishing opportunities Amelia Island offers, be prepared for a very lengthy fish story.
The Kingbuster kingfish tournament will be held Thursday through Sunday in St. Augustine, with $12,000 up for grabs for the heaviest kingfish. First place also includes a week’s vacation in Costa Rica and two full days of fishing. For information, visit www.kingbuster.com.
The Nassau Sport Fishing Association met on June 17 and voted to hold the annual Fernandina Beach Kingfish Tournament and Rodeo on Aug. 1. This will be a scaled-down event with more information to follow as the event approaches.
• The 38th Fernandina Beach Fishing Rodeo, presented by the Nassau Sport Fishing Association, will be held Aug. 1 at the Fernandina Harbor Marina. It is sanctioned by the Southern Kingfish Association as part of their 2020 Tournament Trail national championship series. There will be a kingfish division and an inshore/offshore division. Every entrant can fish one or both divisions.
In a break from tradition due to the risks of COVID-19, the 2020 rodeo will not include on-site entertainment or refreshments, but the needs of thirsty and hungry fisherman can be satisfied by the many merchants in walking distance of the weigh-in tent. Visitors are also welcome to watch the weigh-in of the catch from 2-5:30 p.m.
Online tournament registrations are encouraged, but checks will be accepted. Five days will be needed to process a check if it is mailed in, so send them early to receive early registration fee rate. See all of the registration information and instructions at www.nsfafish.net. VISA, MasterCard, American Express and Discover credit cards are accepted.
The early entry deadline is July 17. Early fees are $350 for the kingfish division and $100 for inshore/offshore.
Cash prizes up to $10,000, based on the number of boats registered, will be awarded. The tournament will also pay both a first- and second-place cash prize for each species in the inshore/offshore division.
Visit www.nsfafish.net or call the tournament committee at277-8889.
The Nassau Sport Fishing Association, founded in 1983, is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, created to develop and promote saltwater fishing in the Nassau County area while adhering to state, federal and local regulations, to encourage compliance with the rules of water safety and to promote youth-related community and other civic-minded activities.