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You Don’t Know Until You Go

Fall is the Best Time for Camping and Fishing for Flood Tide Redfish

Writer  /  Matt Chipperfield

READER BEWARE: you are now entering the great outdoors. It’s time to put down the phone, turn off the television and unplug from your daily life. That awesome selfie can wait — Mother Nature is calling you.

As your dedicated “recreation specialist” I intend to leave you salty, sweaty, bloody and muddy. Every month I will outline the best way you can accomplish this. As a professional fishing guide and lifetime waterman, I’ve gained a unique understanding of the opportunities available to outdoorsmen and sportsmen in North Florida. We are fortunate to have sandy beaches, sprawling spartina marshes, large coastal forests, freshwater rivers, springs, lakes and vast areas of natural habitat.

October is an exciting month here on the First Coast, and it has absolutely nothing to do with pumpkin spice. No longer do you have to contend with 100-degree temperatures and blankets of humidity. The air temperature is dropping and our local ecosystems are thriving.

So, why not kick off the beginning of fall with a camping trip? Anyone who has spent a sweaty night in a stagnant tent knows the frustration that accompanies summer heat and sleeping outdoors. So, many Floridians prefer to camp in the fall and early winter when the conditions are more moderate. Not only is the temperature prime but the campgrounds are generally less crowded.

One of the more popular camping destinations in North Florida is Ginnie Springs. The property contains roughly 200 acres of woodland nestled against the Santa Fe River. The main attraction is a series of seven pristine, crystal clear springs that line the river. You can walk to your spring of choice or you can grab a raft and float down the lazy river until you reach your destination. Unfortunately, most summer campers are there for three reasons: float down the river, swim in the springs and drink alcohol. The resulting party atmosphere can be avoided by going in the early fall when the park is relatively empty and quiet. There are sun decks and gazebos at every spring. Excellent bathrooms and a fully stocked country store keep you comfortable during your stay.

October’s ideal conditions also influence our local fish population. For inshore anglers, October means one thing: Flood Tide Redfish. During summer and early fall the moon’s strong pull on the ocean creates exaggerated tides during new and full moons. As flood tides peak, they inundate grass flats within the intracoastal waterway. This is significant because these flats are packed with small grass crabs, fiddlers and insects that are left stranded in the flood water. Hungry redfish slide their way through mere inches of water to get to these flats and prey on these small crustaceans.

Most anglers utilize fly fishing methods to target these belly crawling fish, but soft plastic lures and spin tackle can also be used. The shallow depth and firm bottom of these tidal flats allows fisherman to leave their craft and wade through the water after their catch. North Guana Outpost on Mickler Road can provide you with fly casting lessons, flood tide flies, soft plastic lures and local guides to get you started.

So, until next month, remember: you don’t know until you go. See what’s out there!

About Matt Chipperfield

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