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Find the pattern.

May is a month circled on calendars of offshore anglers. Marlin fishing reaches its peak. It's no coincidence that the Northeast Florida Marlin Association hosts its big tournament of the year May 1624. Now in its 42nd year and held out of Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor in St. Augustine, the event attracts anglers from afar. It is one of the Rolex/IGFA Offshore qualifying events.

Blue and white marlin are the stars, but wahoo, sailfish, tuna and dolphin are also on the program. And a $10,000 cash first prize is based on points tallied from all the species.

For local anglers fishing "driveway" boats, May means something else. Yes, it's a great time to get offshore with generally light winds--and a lot of these folks will bet-rolling. But when that's not working all that well, these folks break out the bottom rigs to salvage a trip and bring home supper.

Grouper opens back up this month after a four-month closure. With red snapper perpetually shut down, grouper season is a very welcome event. The 21 -fathom curve is a favorite target with lots of ledges and broken bottom. And it's generally the same water that attracts the pelagic species. So you're covering your bets.

Farther inside, the smaller boats will be looking for cobia on the wrecks in around 100 feet of water. These fish will stay on pieces of bottom that hold bait for weeks sometimes, taking a break from their migration. Big flounder and black sea bass will generally be targeted in these areas, too. The cobia make a surprise bite or, more often, simply come up to the boat to see what's going on.

Cobia will also be just off the beaches, moving with large rays and sea turtles. This is more a run-and-gun deal, hinging on sight-fishing. Clear skies and tuna towers are a plus, but not necessary to score.

In the Intracoastal Waterway, finger mullet will have moved in, and smart anglers move with them. Redfish can be anywhere this time of year, from the inlets to the backs of winding creeks. Speckled seatrout tend to sulk in deeper, cooler water during the heat of the day but perk up early and late, especially when high, clear water is moving in.

The myriad creeks off of Heckscher Drive in Jacksonville are ground zero for this kind of fishing. Salt Run in St. Augustine is a great place to target both species, compete with jetties, docks and, on the south end, flats.

The better sheepshead fishing--at least in terms of big fish--is over. But jacks and ladyfish show up to take up any slack. Depending upon your point of view, this can be either a curse or a blessing.

HUNTING One of the only hunting opportunities right now will be for wild hogs. You'll have to do it on private land--Wildlife Management Areas do not allow it other than during specified seasons. But there are several for-pay hog hunting operations in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. Most of the best hog hunting is at night, and there are several operations that specialize in this very interesting type of hunt, using night visioning scopes. It can be wild and crazy. A search on the web will put you in contact with these operations. It can be comparatively inexpensive because, rather than taking trophies, you're helping farmers get rid of expensive nuisances.

BEST BET

NORTHEAST

For freshwater anglers May means one thing: bluegill. While these and other panfish are pretty much a year-round bite, May is when their reproductive switch flips and they congregate in great numbers. Worms, crickets and fresh river shrimp are favorite baits. Tossing small spinners such as Blakemore Road runners on 6-pound test ultralight spinning reels is a blast. The same goes for fly rods and popping bugs.

For bait fishermen if you find the beds, you'll find all the action you can stand. But if things slow down or the spawn stalls, the big secret around here is chumming with garfish roe. Drop in a pinch of this stuff and every fish from 40 feet down current will be under the boat in minutes. It's not easy to find, but Georgia Boy's Fish Camp on Dunn's Creek has hooked up with what looks like a year-round supply. Or get your own. But know that most power tools won't open up the belly of a gar. Tin snips do the trick.

All of the bass spawning should be over, but the fishing isn't. The Wolfson Tournament is a three-day affair in Palatka with three separate tournaments attracting close to 500 entries. Last year, the top eight finishers had stringers over 20 pounds.
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Title Annotation:NORTHEAST
Author:Sutton, Jim
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:May 1, 2014
Words:779
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