I started my trip on Friday by attending my high school homecoming football game in Orange Park. Bill started his trip leaving Thursday to attend the FFF Conclave in Orlando. He had his canoe on the truck and all our gear in the truck bed.
We met up on Sunday morning at the Holiday Inn Express (10148 New Berlin Road, Jax FL, 32226, ph (904) 696-3333. This is very close to Heckscher Drive in Northeast Jacksonville. Normal rates were $119/night but the AAA discount was $ 94 plus $12-$15 in taxes. It was the only motel we saw in the area and was 5-15 minutes from our launch sites. Rooms had flat panel TV, fridge, microwave and double queen beds. A very good serve yourself breakfast was included. Parking seemed very secure.
Bill made contact at the Conclave with Dave Lambert from the First Coast Fly Fishers in Jacksonville (www.fcff.org) and put us in touch with Rob Bernardo, the club president. Rob fished with us all three days. Rob used a 14.5’ Emotion kayak and seemed to stay effortlessly with Bill’s 45 pound thrust trolling motor in 5th gear. If you look at the creeks off Heckscher Drive on Google Earth, you’ll see how expansive they are. I swear Rob knew every little oyster bed in every twist and turn. Rob was a really a great guy to fish with and went out of his way to show us numerous places to launch, how to check the tides for each, and how to best fish his local waters. You can catch nice trout there but we concentrated on sight fishing for reds. We also caught some just blind casting next to the oyster bars. Also caught flounder including one 18 inches.
On Sunday we fished Brown’s Creek starting at 3:30 PM with low tide at 5:30 PM and got back to the launch about 7:15 PM. There are two tides a day there. At this time the high was running about 5 feet. The low about .75 feet. Flood tides occur there from August-October. Some of the slues off the creeks were so low we watched reds coming out with backs and tails above the water surface. Rob’s kayak could go in after them but sometimes in the canoe with the pontoons out we just waited till they came out to us. One bad thing about the tides there is until you know the local waters well you can get stranded at low tide. But the good part is if this happens you don’t have long to wait long until the tide flows back in.
On Monday we started at 6:45 AM at Browns Creek with high tide about 11:15 AM. We fished in some areas where there was 10”-12” on water in the green grass. However this is not what they consider a flood tide. For a flood tide the water gets high enough to get to the brown grass areas where the fiddler crabs are. Some of the crabs crawl up the grass and the reds bump the grass to knock the crabs into the water. We saw one red chase something clean out of the water up on the muddy bank and then slide back into the water 15’ from our canoe. On this outing we started into Brown’s creek going opposite direction from the day before but at higher water we made a circle and connected with where we stopped at low water the day before so we ended up coming back to the launch at about noon from the same direction as the night before.
On Tuesday it was pretty windy but we went out anyway at 4:00 PM. This time we put in at Clapboard Creek which was a little further out Heckscher Drive. Low tide was about 6:30 PM so we got back to the launch again after dark, about 7:00 PM. There were a lot of nice reds here but we had wind and hardly any sun to see into the water. There were also a lot of stingrays along the shore in shallow water working bottom like the reds and when the backs broke the surface I think we cast to these often thinking they were reds. Thankfully we didn’t catch any rays.
Neither of the two creeks we fished was good for wading. The bottom was like quick mud. But there are other areas there with firmer bottoms. We only saw one boat and that was at the mouth as generally it gets too shallow for them. The biggest red I caught was 22” but we saw some that were definitely bigger and Rob had just caught one 24.” Rob said that except for the 85 members of their club, most of the kayak fishermen there are using spinning rods or live bait and don’t get into the really shallow areas in that they don’t know how to really sight fish. He said the reds may have been a little more skittish than usual as there had just been a kayak fishing tournament, 350 entrants! All in all, we had a great trip and I bought a Top Spot map of the local area for our club and Bill and I can share more about this trip at our next meeting.