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Late September through October is considered Jacksonville’s mullet run season.

As the temperatures begin to cool the fishing gets red hot. Falling temperatures trigger the natural instincts in mullet to head south along the Atlantic coast. The migrating mullet stay in large schools and head south to warmer waters where grasses and algae grow during the winter. The fish are herbivorous so the constantly growing food is necessary. The massive amounts of mullet that can be found in river, coves, creeks and canals during the fall Mullet run send many fish into frenzy. This frenzy attracts many predators and for us kayak fishermen, none is better than the monster reds.

Anglers that follow the schools of mullet and cast live mullet on the out sides of the schools will have success catching the fish following the schools since most predators will often wait to pick off any fish that swims away from the school. However, during the run, the reds are gorging themselves and will take most any bait you put in front of them.

On this particular day, my wife, Melita, friends, Tim Stouder and Jim Miller, and I went on the hunt. We launched into the river after fishing for big trout at another location that morning. The thing about fishing the St. Johns River is there is a lot of boat traffic … correction, there is a lot of cargo tanker, tug boat, cruise ship, BIG ship traffic so I would advise any kayak fisherman to be very experienced before venturing out into the river.

So, we launched and not long after run into a guy on his dock who is also fishing for big reds – must be nice! We located the ledge, the point where the dredging has created a severe drop in the river bottom and begin to scope out a good location to drop anchor. Well, we would have dropped anchor except the current isn’t allowing our light anchors to hold us in position so Melita and I back paddle toward shore until we finally hold tight.

We were using quartered blue crab on a Carolina rig. Hefty sinkers are needed to keep the bait at the bottom without being swept away in the rapidly moving current. We cast to the deep and wait. BOOM! Fish on! Jim was hooked up! This was where fishing with a partner or two is really handy. Melita and I pull up our lines and anchor and go to assist Jim. Melita (wo)mans the camera while I kept an eye out for boat traffic while Jim was fighting his monster red. In and out, round and round, Jim was getting his ride when we heard HHHOOOONNNKKKK HHHHOOOONNNKKK. A tanker was coming down the river! Thankfully, Jim had the fish next to his yak and was trying to snap a quick picture but the ship was moving and we don’t want to chance it so Melita swung by on her kayak, picks up the fish by the tail and drags him to shore while Jim and I got out of the boat channel.

Everyone made it to shore and it turned out that it was a good thing we didn’t try to revive the fish out in the water because she needed to be vented before she was released. We snapped a few photos, measured her, vented her and released her unharmed. Wow! She was a beautiful fish at 41.5”.

We got back in and BOOM! Fish on! This time I’m the lucky one! This one came up much quicker. Only a few short runs before she threw in the towel. Snap, snap, and she’s released. Another beautiful red at 38.5”.

By this time, the sun was rapidly descending and the river is no place to be in the dark in my opinion so we head back in. The mullet run is a fun time to fish for monster reds. You can find them in the shallows as well as in the deep river just get some mullet or blue crabs, be patient, hang on and be safe! Fish on!