Captain Bob Cosby
It looks like fall is in full retreat and winter is upon us! The last time I fished (two days ago) the water temperature was 63 degrees and falling. The Jacksonville jetties are producing good catches of sheepshead and black drum are starting to bite. This bite should only improve in the near future. Some oversized redfish remain at the jetty tips and along the rocks. It seems that a resident population of large reds prefer the jetty environment so much that they hang around throughout the winter even as their chums move offshore. The drum we’ve caught have been in the 8 to 10 lb range and were caught on crab baits. Smaller drum can be caught in deep holes in creeks and the ICW. Some flounder are still being caught around Mayport and St. Augustine docks and rocks. Finger mullet and/or mud minnows are the best bait.
Speckled trout fishing has been very good recently in the river, ICW, and creeks. Lots of them are undersized, however, there are enough keepers to satisfy most fish eaters. As the water cools down, look for the specs to school in deep holes gouged in creek bends. All the normal fishing techniques are producing trout, including sliding float rigs, plastic and bucktail jigs, subsurface lures, and, to a lesser degree, topwater plugs. As the water continues to cool and the metabolism of the fish slows down, topwater lures will be less effective. Yellowmouth trout are also arriving in the area. They actually fight harder than their speckled cousins and seem to prefer the colder water.
The creeks, all the way from Fernandina to St Augustine, are producing both rat reds and slot fish. Artificial lures and flies as well as natural baits are effective. Look for the rats close to oyster bars and the slots cruising the shallows. Lots of finger mullet are still in the area, and the predatory fish are hanging around them. The last half of the ebb tide and the first of the flood are the best times for creek fishing. Don’t forget that most creek mouths are very shallow and can put a damper on your trip if you run aground.
The surf and piers are giving up good catches of whiting, bluefish, and some drum. November produced some exceptional catches of pompano, but these fish will move further south as the water cools.
All things considered, December remains a very good month for inshore fishing in northeast Florida. Remember, be considerate of other fishermen and boaters and release your undersized fish!
CAPT Bob Cosby