I live near the brackish waters northwest of Jacksonville beaches. What's in these waters and how can I catch good eating fish?
Dear Captain " I live near the brackish waters northwest of Jacksonville beaches. What's in these waters and how can I catch good eating fish? "
Depending on how brackish that water is will determine what fish can comfortably live and stay in that water. Saltwater species that you could be catching up in brackish waters that are almost fresh or completely fresh water would be tarpon, ladyfish, bass, and many species of sunfish and catfish. Also, some species of the drum family like the Atlantic Croaker. If the water has some salinity and tidal creeks, you can add redfish, Black drum, flounder, trout, Jack Crevalle, juvenile gray snapper, Sea bass and believe this -- Goliath grouper. Even though the Goliath's will stay more south than the area you will be fishing in, they are getting more common up that way and juveniles are hanging in the tidal creeks.
One of the keys to success in this type of fishing is learning to use the tidal creeks. Fish will use these as a highway sometimes, as a feeding station at times, and as a safe house to rest. Once you learn which tidal creeks are productive at certain tides, you will have a found yourself a pattern for that species. As far as rods and reels, I would use a 7' medium-action rod, 8-17 lb. class, and a 3000 size spinning reel spooled with 20-lb. braided line, or 10-lb. monofilament line. For leader size, I would use anywhere from 20-to-30 pound leader.
If the water clarity is not the best, you don't have to use fluorocarbon and stick to a base monofilament leader line. For live baits I would use either shrimp or mud minnows / bull minnows, or finger mullet swimming in the shallows. To catch these minnows you can use a minnow trap or a small cast net around the 6-to-8 foot range in a 3/8" mesh size. I would rig these baits three different ways. One way would be on the top using a cork to keep the bait off the bottom. Another way would be free-lined with no weight or cork just let the minnow swim around naturally.
Lastly I would put a small split shot above the minnow to keep the bait towards the bottom. This will allow you to cover the water column and see where the fish are feeding. For artificials I would use a top-water chug bug made by "Storm" for early morning and late evening fishing. This will get that very cool top-water explosion which keeps us coming back for more! Next I would use a suspending bait like a Catch 2000 from Mirrolure in the 808. This will imitate a finger mullet or a bull minnow and will allow you to search a lot of water.Then there is the DOA CAL 3" shad paddle tail on a ¼-oz. jig-head with some Shrimp Pro Cure Scent added to it. This will allow you to bump the bottom and find the deeper water structures and the scent is the extra little bit of temptation to get those fish to eat!
Thank you for sending in your question to The Online Fisherman.com, I hope your next fishing outing is a memorable one! Keep an eye out for our new fish portal pages coming out in the next month. These pages have all the information like I wrote above to make you one of the 10% of the anglers who is catching 90% of the fish.
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Captain David M. Rieumont
The Online Fisherman Inc.