Get Hooked on Fishing on Florida’s Historic Coast

Don't let the big one get away on this trip. Here are some local suggestions for the best fishing spots for year-round fishing in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and The Beaches.

Surf Fishing

Summer sunrises are spectacular here and there’s no better way to greet a new day than by casting a line from a quiet beach, like Vilano Beach, while the sun peeks from the sea. Throughout the year, surf fishing is a popular pastime for both visitors and residents – not only because of the relaxation it brings, but also for the excitement of hooking a big one just beyond the surf. The key to success here is to cast your line and bait past the waves rolling toward the beach, into the “trough” in between waves. Of course, to do that you’ll need the right equipment, bait and license. Lucky for you, local bait and tackle shops can provide everything you need.

Springtime signals the return of game fish that have spent the winter in warmer waters to the south. The first cobia can be found cruising past the beaches along with pompano. Early spring often means more whiting because these scrappy fish spawn in the surf.

Along summertime beaches, anglers are likely to hook speckled sea trout, kingfish, pompano or jack crevalle. Don’t forget sunscreen and broad-brimmed fishing hat!

In fall and winter, it’s the high probability of catching whiting that draws anglers to the sands of Crescent Beach and North Beach. And while waiting for that bite, it’s not unusual to find a perfect sand dollar here.

Inshore & Offshore Fishing

In summer, inshore fishing in the many creeks and back bays is popular, particularly for anglers pursuing redfish. Ranging in size from 3-10 pounds, local redfish are the lure that attracts many anglers to Florida’s Historic Coast. Flounder, black drum and speckled sea trout are also frequently caught inshore.

From June through September, the seaward mouths of Matanzas and St. Augustine inlets offer the opportunity for one of fishing’s most exciting experiences – battling with a big tarpon! Ranging in size from 10 to more than 150 pounds, their armor-like scales flash in the sunlight when these hard-fighting fish leap high out of the water. Each July, offshore and inshore anglers register to compete for large, cash prizes in the Ancient City Gamefish Challenge. This St. Augustine event features parties, entertainment and two days of offshore fishing for kingfish and inshore fishing for redfish.

Here, fall and winter (late October to mid-March) are the best times to fish the creeks and bays. The Historic Coast is known as one of the very best places to catch redfish. That’s particularly true in fall when these popular game fish follow shrimp and mullet into the shallows. On the coldest days in February, they can be caught sunning themselves in water depths of as little as one foot. The colder the water, the better the visibility for fishing. Sea trout also like to form schools and congregate in sunny, shallow water.

Offshore fishing is extremely popular. For both safety and best results, one of several offshore charters is recommended. These will take you out to the blue water where black sea bass, gag grouper, vermillion snapper, cobia, dolphin (mahi), blackfin tuna and wahoo are likely to be encountered. All-inclusive full and half-day charters are available.

Charter Fishing Trips

Cruising just off St. Augustine’s beaches, anglers pursue schools of jacks – some weighing as much as 25 pounds – as well as kingfish, sea trout, snapper and the occasional cobia. To get the very best fishing experience, visitors should consider one of the local charters such as Inshore Adventures or Coastal Fish Charters. They provide an experienced guide and everything needed for a successful fishing expedition.

Several local charter companies, including Sea Love and Drum Man charters, take anglers as far as 30 miles out into the blue Atlantic for an unforgettable offshore adventure.

Pier Fishing & More

No boat – no problem. Local piers and some bridges offer exceptional fishing. The St. Johns County Ocean Pier is a great spot to fish for flounder, sea trout, sheepshead and black drum. At this pier, a Florida fishing license is a part of the $6 per day fishing admission. Although a license is required, anglers can also try their luck at Lighthouse Park, the Matanzas Inlet Bridge on A1A or travel toward Vilano Beach for the Vilano Beach Pier or May Street Bridge.

(Here’s a little-known local fishing secret – there’s a fishing platform beneath the SR 206 bridge on its east end. To get there, go south through the stoplight on A1A and take any right in Crescent Beach, then turn north at the water’s edge. That road ends beneath the bridge. Park above high tide line and don’t tell anyone else about this spot.)

Fishing License

All anglers are required to carry a valid freshwater fishing license while taking or attempting to take freshwater fish. Fishing from a boat, or land or structure accessible only by boat requires a regular saltwater fishing license.
 
Florida fishing licenses are easily available at bait and tackle shops and license offices throughout the state of Florida. They can also be purchased via telephone at 888-FISH-FLORIDA, or online at the FWC’s Online License & Permit Sales Site.  

Boat Ramps

St. Johns County has 14 Boat ramps spread throughout the county that allow boaters to enjoy both Salt and Fresh Water access free of charge. Click here for a map of boat ramps.