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Friday - September 02, 2011 - Live Weather Conditions from the Amelia Island Online Weather Station

Amelia Island Fishing - Common Fish

The fish shown here are the fish we catch in the surf, from piers, and in creeks around Amelia Island. As we catch different fish, I'll photograph them and add them here. There's a lot of other fish around, we just don't catch them like the guys in the boats do.

Atlantic Spade Fish - No limit. This fish is often called an "angel fish". We've never caught them in the surf, but have caught plenty from the Fort Clinch pier. They are usually in large schools, so if you catch one, you'll catch a bunch. No food value that I know of, but I'm sure somebody has tried one for dinner.

They'll bite on the normal baits; shrimp, cut mullet. Average size is about 2 pounds but they have been caught up to 16 pounds. Good fighter, toss them back to catch them again another day.

Bluefish - Legal size: 12" or longer, limit 10 per person per day. Toothy little critter, don't get your fingers near his mouth. Largest ones we've caught from the beach or pier here in Amelia Island are about 2 to 3 pounds, but up north there are much bigger ones caught surf fishing - 20 to 25 pounds.

Blues will bite on any kind of cut bait, such as mullet or spot. Wire leaders are a must if you're fishing for these guys, they'll bite the hook off a monofilament line. They'll tear up a live mullet, but you'll rarely hook one with this bait. They will also hit artificial lures.

Small ones up to a couple pounds are good to eat. Really easy to clean; whack out the fillets and skin them.

Flounder - Legal size: 12" or longer, limit 10 per person per day. I occasionally fish for flounder, but not often. Flounder are unlike the other Amelia Island fish in the respect that they usually won't come to you, you have to go find them.

Flounder lay on the bottom, usually camouflaged under the sand, waiting for lunch to swim by; they don't usually roam around looking for food. You'll find them around pier pilings, sand bars and drop offs. We rarely catch Flounder in the surf, but have caught a few.

Best baits for Flounder are mud minnows or small finger mullet. Drag the bait, keep it moving, you have to find the fish. On the pier you'll see people bent over the railing walking along the pier, "trolling" for flounder. Great fish to eat.

Jack Crevalle - No limits on size or number kept. This picture is a juvenile fish, about 4" long, but he looks quite a bit like the adults. We don't catch many of these fish, but we have caught a few big ones (10 lbs and up) over the years. The big ones hit mostly live bait; I remember catching them on live mullet and live pin fish. Small ones will bite on just about any bait and the large ones put up quite a fight. They will also hit fast moving artificial baits.

Jacks are not very good to eat, or so I've heard; I've never eaten one.

Mullet - No size limit, maximum 50 per person per day. In the fall, these guys visit Amelia Island by the millions. Acres of them can be seen swimming down the beach at times. They range is size from 3" to about 15".

They are a great bait fish, and can be used either alive or as cut bait. If you have a cast net, you can catch them from piers, bridges, or even in the surf. You can also buy them live or frozen from the local bait stores. Toss your leftovers into a zip lock bag and freeze them, they'll work as bait after being frozen for a year.

Pin Fish - No limit. They range is size from 2" to about 6". Notorious bait stealers.

Pin fish can be used as live bait, but I've never used them as cut bait nor have I seen anyone else using them cut. I've caught a few big jacks on live ones.

Handle them carefully - they have very sharp spines on the dorsal fin. Catch them with small pieces of shrimp on small hooks (#4 or #6).

Pompano - Size limit: 11 to 20 inches, one fish over 20 inches per person per day. Bag limit 6 per day.

Pompano bite on sand fleas and dead shrimp. For some reason, we don't have many in this part of Florida; maybe they like the warmer weather and water down south. Over the years I have caught a few by accident, but none on purpose. Captain Chuck, aka Dr. Pompano, beat up the beaches and piers in the area in October and November 2005 and couldn't find even one lucky Pompano that wanted to play.

Puffer - Yep, he's ugly. Nope, he's not good to eat. Nope, he's no good for bait. Take a pair of piers and flip him off the hook back into the water. Hopefully you won't see him again for a while.

There are a few varieties of puffer fish, I'm not sure which kind this one is. There have also been warnings about toxic problems with puffer fish in parts of Florida.

Red Drum - Legal size: 18" or longer up to 27", limit 1 per person per day. Locally known simply as "reds". These guys get up to 90+ pounds, but the Florida record is about 53 pounds. We've caught them on the beach and on the piers at Amelia Island up to 40 inches long, estimated around 35 pounds. Easily identified by the black spot near the tail. There can be one spot or many, this fish had one on the left side and two on the right.

The majority of the reds we catch are on cut fresh mullet or live mullet, fished on the bottom. They will also hit shrimp, and I hear rumors they'll hit artificial stuff, but never caught one on a lure. Fun fish to fight, and just when you think he's about done, he'll take off with another 50 yards of line. Let him do that a few times before you try to land him.

Reds don't reproduce until they get a few years old; the male fish is mature at about 21" and the female fish is mature at about 36", so it's important to release them with the least amount of stress. Don't handle them more than you need to, and get them back in the water as quickly as possible after taking a picture or two. I recommend using circle hooks when fishing for reds, as it keeps them from getting hooked deeply; circle hooks will lip hook the fish, causing little or no damage.

Reds are a lot more fun to catch than they are to clean. They have a large head and body cavity, and large scales which make them hard to fillet. You'll get relatively little meat when you're done in relation to the size of the fish. I recommend you release all that you catch, and come back another day to catch them again. I've heard a reliable story about the same red being caught twice in 30 minutes!

Shark - No size limit, one per person per day. There are a bunch of different kinds of sharks around Amelia Island. This one is an Atlantic Sharpnose Shark I believe, and it's the most common kind we catch when surf or pier fishing. They get up to about two feet long, and will hit almost any kind of bait. They will grab a bait and run like crazy, but as soon as you tighten the line, they turn into dead weight. Big ones are fun to catch. Some people eat sharks, but I doubt this type make it to many tables as most of the ones we catch are fairly small.

Other types of sharks we've caught are black tips, hammer heads, lemon sharks, and bonnet head sharks. The largest shark I've caught around Amelia Island was about four feet (from a pier), and I've seen six foot long hammer heads swimming around piers.

If you plan on going shark fishing, and plan on keeping one, I'd suggest you read up on Florida's numerous species as some of them are protected and illegal to keep.

Sheepshead - Legal size: 12 inches, limit 15 per person per day. White with black stripes, this fish is easily identified by it's strange looking teeth which look like a set of mini people teeth. You won't catch many Sheepshead unless you are fishing specifically for them, although you may occasionally catch one using shrimp for bait.

These fish are found around pier pilings, bridge pilings, or oyster shell beds. Best bait to catch them with are fiddler crabs, but sand fleas and shrimp (live or dead) will sometimes also work. They are really good at stealing bait, and you'll need to develop a technique if you plan on catching many of them. They are excellent fish for the table.

Skate - Yep, he's really ugly. Nope, he's not good to eat. Nope, he's no good for bait. No, he doesn't have a poison stinger in his tail. But I still don't recommend picking him up by the tail (or anywhere else for that matter), just because he's ugly.

Even though he's really ugly, please resist the urge to poke him full of holes and leave him to die on the pier. He's one of the guys that's cleans up all the smelly rotten bait that people leave on the pier (after I throw it into the water). These guys are small, up to maybe 18" wide, and have funny looking frog feet on the bottom. Why, I dunno. We call these fish "Japanese flounders".

Spot - No limit. Largest ones I have seen in Amelia Island are about 8". Catch them with small pieces of shrimp on small hooks (#4 or #6).

Good to eat (we ate loads caught in the Chesapeake Bay when I was a kid) but boney as I recall. Good for live bait if they're small enough and good for cut bait because they are very oily.

Sea Trout - Legal size: Minimum 15", maximum 20", one fish per day over 20" per person. Limit 5 fish per day. Very good fish to eat, and fun to catch too.

Trout can be caught on live mullet, cut mullet, live or dead shrimp, and artificial baits. Live baits seems to work the best for big trout.

These fish have a very soft mouth, so be careful if you horse them around or haul them up to the pier, you'll pull the hook out and lose them. Use a pier net for big ones if you have one.

Whiting - No limit on size or number kept. The fish is very silvery in color when first caught, but the color darkens (like this picture) when they are out of the water.

A Whiting will take a good whack at the bait and will often run with it, making you think you have a much bigger fish on the line. Most of the Whiting I have caught over the years have been caught with dead shrimp for bait, in the surf. But they'll also hit other baits, like cut mullet.

Very good fish to eat; many people I've met say Whiting is their favorite table fish. For a small fish, they have a lot of very white tasty meat. They're fun to catch too.

Manatee - Hopefully you'll never catch one while fishing, but if you're lucky you might get to see one swimming by now and then. The one in this picture was swimming near the beach at the Fort Clinch pier.

Although they could be mistaken for a one man submarine, Manatees are actually very gentle and not a problem for fisherman except for the fact that they'll swim right up to you if you are wade fishing and scare the heck out of you if you don't see them coming.

They don't seem to be afraid of people, I've heard stories of them swimming up to a kayak fisherman, tugging on the bait bucket ropes and putting their heads up on the kayak like a puppy dog.

 
A bad day of fishing is much better than a good day of cutting the grass.


Friday - September 02, 2011 - Live Weather Conditions from the Amelia Island Online Weather Station
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