Mill Cove is a great place to fish in Jacksonville, Florida. Mill Cove has it all; deep channels, oyster mounds, grass banks, flats areas. All of these things makes Mill Cove a fishing paradise for the avid inshore kayak angler. In Mill Cove, a kayak angler can tackle redfish, black drum, trout, flounder, jack crevalle, and even tarpon.It had been quite some time since my childhood friend, Buddy, and I had gotten the opportunity to spend some time on the water together. Buddy and I have been friends since we were 5 years old, and still to this day (over 30 years) we’ve remained close. We’ve kayak fished for the better part of 10 years, and we’ve fished all over the state of Florida, as well as in some Gulf States. Kayak fishing is a passion that we share together, and we’ll both agree that getting a good ole sleigh ride is a ton of fun in a kayak.
Like I’d said, it had been several months since we’d been able to spend some time on the water together, chasing fish and catching up. Buddy dropped me a call earlier in the week and said we both needed a little saltwater therapy, and I was in full agreement. We’d both wanted to fish Florida’s Big Bend area, but that area has been dealing with some red tide and the bite was pretty tough at best. We decided we’d fish the east coast of Florida somewhere around Jacksonville. I’d been hearing reports of a pretty decent bite in Mill Cove, so we decided that if the weather wasn’t going to be a factor then Mill Cove would be our destination. Mill Cove, as stated above, is a great place to fish, but it can get messy with increased winds and those infamous summer storms that can pop up out of nowhere.
The forecast was calling for winds out of the SW at 10-15mph with only a 20% chance of rain. We both liked that forecast and decided on Mill Cove as our fishing destination. Buddy came in on Friday evening, and after a few cold beers and some burgers off the grill, we set about getting our gear prepped and loaded up for what we both hoped would be a great day of kayak fishing. We’d decided we’d grab some mud minnows and live shrimp for the day to go along with tossing some Bass Assassin “chicken on a chain” lures mixed in. We launched from the Fulton Road boat ramp, and set off for the long pedal in our Native Watercraft Slayer 13 Propel yaks.
We grabbed our bait, and launched right at daylight, ready for the long trek to the entrance to Mill Cove. As predicted, the morning weather was pretty on point, with just a light breeze to keep us cool. We pitched and trolled some lures on the way back to Mill Cove with no takers. Buddy noticed a pretty cool rainbow coming straight down of a cloud, something neither of us had ever witnessed. We both took that as a sign from the fish gods that we were in for a great day of fishing. We entered Mill Cove and started working our way to the area we’d wanted to fish. Our initial plan was to fish this one particular area on the top of the high tide and work it through the outgoing tide. Unfortunately, we were a little behind in our planning. To add insult to injury, the weather forecast didn’t last as predicted. The winds picked up and felt more like 15-20mph!
We set up anyway, and not long into the morning we had our first bite of the day. My rod sitting in the rod holder behind my seat just went off, doubled over, and was almost yanked out of the rod holder. I knew it had to be a stud fish on the other end. I grabbed the rod and started working the fish back to the yak. The fight was a pretty good one and the fish stayed down, helping grow my belief that it was indeed a quality fish. I worked the fish back to the yak, and was shocked at what it was. A undersized redfish at around 16″ with 7 spots on it. That redfish must have ate his Wheaties that morning, and I would have swore it was at least a much larger redfish.
By this time the tide had really turned and the water was rushing out of Mill Cove. We decided to reposition ourselves to try to get on a better bite. Buddy sighted a stud redfish working on top of an almost fully exposed oyster mound, but couldn’t get him to commit to our bait. We worked our way up and down both sides of this massive oyster mound looking for the fish. I went one way and Buddy went the other way in hopes of giving each other a head’s up on where the fish were holding up. I worked my way to a cut, noticed something busting bait and quickly cast out a mud minnow on a popping cork. As soon as the cork hit the water, something took the bait and took off. I reeled down to set the hook, but nothing was there except a mauled mud minnow. I started to move to another area, but a boater had already occupied that spot and I watched them reel in a nice flounder. I worked my way back over to Buddy and he showed me a nice undersized red that he’d just landed as well.
We decided the tide was pushing out faster than normal so we worked our way back to the channel to try some deeper water. As soon as we reached the channel, we both noticed a rather ominous looking cloud just to our west, and we both knew it would be heading our way. Of course, being the consummate kayak anglers, we decided to cast a few more times as we “slowly” worked our way back to the launch. Not even a minute later, we both noticed some lightning and decided we’d better not push our luck. We reeled in and started pedaling back to the launch, when all of a sudden a stud flounder breached the water completely. In about the blink of an eye, Buddy and I had already both casted our bait over to the direction of the flounder. It seems the fish gods were having their fun with us, because as soon as our baits hit the water another bolt of lightning crackled in the distance. We reeled everything in for good this time and started making our way back to the launch. To add insult to injury, while pedaling back I looked down to my right and watched a nice redfish swim right past me!
The storm behind us seemed to me hell bent and determined to catch up to us and did about halfway back to the launch. The winds churned up the water with some big swells and got really gusty. I have to admit, there was a couple of instances where I knew I was close to taking a swim in good ole Mill Cove! We made it back to the launch safely and with all our gear intact, but soaked to the bone from the storm. Of course, it was simply one of those “bark is bigger than its bite” kind of storms, because it had completely passed once we beached our yaks at the launch. Our day in Mill Cove hadn’t produced a ton of fish or that epic day that we’d hoped for, but we both had a great time. Besides, isn’t it more about spending a great time on the water with those closest to you that matter the most? Buddy and I had a blast at Mill Cove, and we’re both ready for our next kayak fishing trip together.