Saturday, August 01, 2015
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Jacksonville Marine Association

10670504-relaxing-on-the-boatFrom Jacksonville to Ponce Inlet, there is a myriad of boating opportunities available whether you’re an angler, boater kayaker or just want to float in a canoe.

Of the more than 2,000 marinas across Florida, several hundred are available in the First Coast. Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor, one of the largest in northeast Florida, offers 244 slips, followed closely by the Conch House Resort Marina in St. Augustine with 200 slips.

St. Augustine’s coastal waters provide wonderful opportunities for any angler. Crescent Beach, only 25 minutes from downtown St. Augustine on Anastasia Island, is a great place to drop a line, as is Vilano Beach, a three-minute drive from downtown. Hire a deep-sea charter boat to catch larger fish offshore, or cast off the pier. St. Augustine is home to the annual Kingfish Challenge and billfish tournaments. Marlin, dolphin, sea trout, flounder and redfish also are abundant.

Further south in Daytona Beach and Ponce Inlet, two very popular tourist destinations on Florida’’s Northeast Coast, there are lots of possibilities for renting and riding sailboats, chartering private yachts, or finding a cruise with private and public marinas located throughout the area.

To the north lies Amelia Island with its lagoons, surrounding islands, and plethora of wildlife offering an excellent place to rent a motorboat, or bring your own, and explore the natural beauty of the area. Boaters can easily traverse the whole route of the Intracoastal Waterway, which in northern to central Florida runs between the barrier islands and the mainland.

Grouper, king mackerel, black sea bass, sheepshead, pompano, flounder, bluefish, cobia, and silver and speckled sea trout all can be found in warm waters off the coast of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach. The great amberjack is legendary in the area, as it has been known to reach five feet in length and weigh more than 150 pounds.

Going inland, boaters can try out a more urban water adventure on Jacksonville’s St. Johns River. This slow-moving and very wide river is excellent for sailing. In fact, the world”s longest sailboat race, the Annual Mug Race, takes place each year, starting in Palatka located about 45 miles south of Jacksonville, and ending at Jacksonville Beach.

Another excellent and relaxing way to experience the St. Johns River is to take a river ride on an authentic side-wheel paddleboat. You might see a sleepy alligator in the noonday sun or a family of manatees cooling under saw palmettos that overhang the brackish water of the river. Touring the slow-moving, north-flowing St. Johns River is an excellent way to connect and commune with nature.

For the angler, the bass fishing offered by the St. Johns River is legendary. The river flows north for more than 300 miles through Northeast Florida, with submerged vegetation along the banks providing great habitat for fish. Doctor Inlet, part of the St. Johns River, is a hot spot for large mouth bass and   sunfish with bass found near lush eel grass beds year-round.

So whether you are looking for exploration or casting a line, if you have a love of water, you will find yourself right at home in northeast Florida. Artile from Cranewoods

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