Angler's Guide to Jacksonville Florida: A Fishing Gem

Angler's Guide to Jacksonville Florida: A Fishing Gem
Published: Saturday, January 30th, 2021
Updated on: Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

Jacksonville, Florida is the Sunshine State’s most populous city, a place known for its many beaches and swimming spots! Jacksonville is also the city with the biggest land area in Florida. Jacksonville is just south of Georgia and located right on the St. John’s River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. But despite the influx of residents and people, Jacksonville, Florida has managed to keep a balance between nature and urbanization. They even managed to preserve a lot of their history especially when the city itself was founded. 

Americans from Cow Ford settled Jacksonville after the Spaniards drove out the French. They named the town after their hero, Andrew Jackson, who was also the first territorial governor. The town then became a city with the help of Isaiah D. Hart and some residents on February 9, 1832. 

Jacksonville is a great tourist and vacation destination, and visitors enjoy going to the beach, biking, and golf, among other things. Jacksonville fishing is another major selling point. Jacksonville is also home to the famous Pompano Beach, named after the Florida Pompano! 

Jacksonville fishing is known for its wide variety of fish. Located at the Northeastern part of Florida, many of the inshore fish in Jacksonville can survive in brackish water.  Anglers can expect to engage with some exciting fish such as King Mackerel, Tarpon , Red Snapper, Black and Red Drum, and Cobia. But you don’t have wander around Jacksonville for those fish alone! There are many fantastic fishing charters in Jacksonville with captains who specialize in every gamefish you can imagine.

Jacksonville Fishing

Because Jacksonville lies right on the junction of St. John’s River and the Atlantic Ocean, the water right near the city is a bit brackish and may even swing between freshwater and saltwater. The nearby waters are home to wrecks, reefs, and inlets which makes it a nice haven for many species of fish, like redfish, red snapper, and more!    

When planning a Jacksonville fishing adventure, many locals and tourists will opt to go out with Jacksonville fishing charters.  This way you can make sure to make the most of your time fishing in Jacksonville. With a professional fishing guide or captain, you won’t need to buy a fishing license like you normally would fishing on your own.  

If you’re visiting the area on your own, kayak fishing is possible if you’re looking for a real adventure. There’s also plenty of shore fishing opportunities. Since Jacksonville is home to many bridges, shore fishing is a relatively popular pastime.  However, going out with a Jacksonville fishing guide will definitely give you the best shot at catching fish. 

Jacksonville St. Johns River Fishing Dames Point Bridge

The most popular place to go fishing is the St. John’s River, the very river that Jacksonville is built on. With its multiple marine structures, the St. John’s River will surprise you with a variety of fish. The St. John’s River was also home to the 2020 Cowford Redfish tournament! This tournament, held by a nonprofit called St. John’s Riverkeeper, aims to make people more aware of the estuaries that became endangered due to industrial expansion. 

Asides from the St. John’s River, fishing charters can also take you inshore to Intracoastal Waterway and Gulf Stream. A fishing trip to the Gulf Stream will take a full day, but it definitely won’t disappoint. Out in the Gulf Stream,  you’ll find Sailfish, Wahoo, Blackfin Tuna, and other pelagics. These are the kinds of fish that will get any angler’s blood pumping with adrenaline. Hauling in a Sailfish is a prize for sure. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a Marlin, one of the biggest and most sought-after trophy fish in the world. 

Other places for fishing include the artificial reefs that are built around Jacksonville. Home to at least 100 artificial reefs, Jacksonville is bound to attract fish that prefer reefs as their habitat. Stinson Park is a good place, too. The meeting point between the Ortega River and the St. John’s River, Stinson Park is home to a lot of freshwater fish like Largemouth Bass and Striped Bass. Dutton Island Reserve is the place to go if you want to go fishing in the Intracoastal Waterway.  You can fish for cobia, king mackerel, black drum, and redfish there. And since it’s home to crabs and shrimps, you might not need to bring too much of your own bait. It's always smart to check the sandy and muddy areas for crabs to use for bait. 

Because of the great offshore and inshore fishing, there’s a great selection of Jacksonville fishing guides.  There are also lots of tournaments each year. There are almost too many to choose from! For inshore anglers, the annual Flounder Pounder happens every October. Then, there’s the El Cheapo Sheepshead Tournament, which usually happens in March. During the winter, there’s the famous Northeast Florida Wahoo Shootout. Catch up to two Wahoo a day and win with the heaviest one at the end of the day.  The Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament encourages you to test your mettle against hefty King Mackerel. 

Top 10 Jacksonville Fish Species

The top 10 fish species you’ll catch out in Jacksonville are Redfish, Spotted Sea Trout, Flounder, Snook, Tarpon, Marlin, Wahoo, Red Snapper, Black Drum, and Largemouth Bass,

Jacksonville Fishing Tips

Jacksonville deep sea fishing means going out offshore into Gulf Stream waters.  Out here, you’ll encounter fish like red snappers, king mackerels, mahi mahi, and cobias. This will typically be 20-50 miles away from shore, and you should prepare to spend the whole day fishing when you go offshore. 

Nassau Sound Fishing Bridge and Mill Cove are some of the best inshore fishing spots around Jacksonville. These two spots are great to go fly fishing. Since Jacksonville is right at the mouth of the St. John’s River, you’ll have a lot of fish roaming around the inshore areas. Spotted Sea Trout and Redfish are particularly common, and they’re both great gamefish. 

Jacksonville Backcountry River

The Jacksonville area is well-known for its population of redfish. As long as there are high tides, they’ll be gathering by the jetties for food. Redfish also like feeding on oysters at the oyster bar in Pablo South. Redfish also frequently feed on fiddler crab in the grass.  Jacksonville provides opportunities for flood tide fishing, just like St. Augustine. 

Tarpon are a bucket list fish for many anglers. Known as the Silver King, Tarpon are hard fighters, and they’ll put on a show with their acrobatic leaps.  This elusive fish are one of the most sought-after species in Jacksonville.  Tarpon fishing is a warm weather game in Jacksonville, and you should expect to see them only from May to October. 

The most common baits people use in Jacksonville are live shrimps and minnows. There’s a lot of bait shops along the way, especially in the parks. It’s also possible to catch bait at your fishing spot.  Some places like the Guana River Wildlife Management area can be a bit strict on what baits to bring. It may be best to grab some bait from the area you're fishing to save yourself from the trouble.  

Top 5 Jacksonville Fishing Spots

  • Dutton Island Reserve
  • Mill Cove
  • Stinson Park
  • The Gulf Stream
  • Jacksonville Beach

Jacksonville Seasonal Fishing

Fishing is a year-round activity in Jacksonville. Redfish, grouper, and snapper pretty much bite throughout the year, even during the winter. The summer brings offshore fishing for marlin, while you can catch sailfish even in the fall. Cobia and wahoo fishing picks up in the winter.  The biggest black drum are around in March.  As you can see, there's good reason for Jacksonville fishing charters to run all year round.

Jacksonville Fish Species Seasonality Chart

Jacksonville Fish Species Seasonality Snapper Redfish Grouper
Angler's Guide to Jacksonville Florida: A Fishing Gem Fish species
King Mackerel

Habitat: Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck

Weight: 10 - 20 Pounds

Length: 19" - 72"

Tarpon 

Habitat: Inshore, Flats, Backcountry

Weight: 25 - 63 Pounds

Length: 48" - 96"

White Marlin 

Habitat: Offshore

Weight: 45 - 65 Pounds

Length: 50" - 118"

Goliath Grouper 

Habitat: Onshore, Nearshore, Reef, Backcountry, Flats, Wreck

Weight: 75 - 150 Pounds

Length: 50" - 98"

Wahoo 

Habitat: Nearshore, Offshore, Reef

Weight: 15 - 35 Pounds

Length: 8" - 100"

Snook 

Habitat: Inshore, Flats, Backcountry

Weight: 12 - 29 Pounds

Length: 16" - 50"

Black Drum 

Habitat: Brackish Waters, Onshore

Weight: 15 - 90 Pounds

Length: 0" - "

Atlantic Sailfish

Habitat: Offshore, Nearshore

Weight: 50 - 142 Pounds

Length: 90" - 124"

Redfish

Habitat: Onshore, Flats, Backcountry, Nearshore

Weight: 10 - 45 Pounds

Length: 30" - 61"

Summer Flounder 

Habitat: Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore

Weight: 1 - 5 Pounds

Length: 15" - 37"

Red Snapper 

Habitat: Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck

Weight: 5 - 20 Pounds

Length: 19" - 39"

Sea Trout 

Habitat: Inshore, Nearshore, Covered River

Weight: 1 - 6 Pounds

Length: 20" - 55"

Things to do in Jacksonville

1. Jacksonville Fishing Charters 

Jacksonville is home to many fishing charters. Depending on the fish you want to target, these fishing charters are willing to offer you guidance in making the most of your fishing trip. Find the fishing charter in Jacksonville best suited to your needs here

Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier

2. Jacksonville Beaches

Jacksonville Beach is a well-known surf spot that some claim to have the best waves in the state. Neptune Beach is a great spot to visit for the sunset.  Finally, Atlantic Beach is a historic spot, where you can surf and walk trails.

3. Huguenot Memorial Park 

Huguenot Memorial Park is a well known bird watching spot. It also has a critical wildlife area where you can and observe endangered species. If you have a family and want to bring your kids out, Huguenot Memorial Park offers playgrounds also for them to play in.