Aucilla WMA offers several different fishing opportunities. The Western Sloughs are popular with bank fishermen who target redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish (shellcracker), spotted sunfish (stumpknocker), bluegill and largemouth bass. The Aucilla River Sinks is a good place to combine hiking along the Florida National Scenic Trail with fishing the numerous sinkholes and river rises for bream and catfish. The Wacissa River offers many angling opportunities for various species of bream. Early mornings out of Goose Pasture campground can be productive for largemouth bass. The Wacissa is one of only a handful of rivers in north Florida with Suwannee bass, a smaller cousin to the largemouth bass. This small bass can be distinguished from the largemouth by its tan coloration with dark brown markings, red eye, and absence of a notch separating the two sections of the dorsal fin. Reference the map of Aucilla for boat ramp locations. Fishing license information. When DeSoto explored this area 400 years ago the Aucilla River was a wild black water river. Today it would be one of the few places he would recognize. Wandering its way for seventy miles through swamps and hardwood hammocks this river somehow misses every major town or industry anywhere near its path. The Aucilla arrives at the Gulf as a tea stained colored river of medium size. The exact point of entry is the far eastern end of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The Aucilla forms part of the St. Marks eastern boundary right before it enters Apalachee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. This is the part of the refuge that visitors to St. Marks rarely see.
This is definitely a place for people who want to get away from everyone else. On weekends it’s busy if five boats launch in the same morning. During the week you’re likely to have the river to yourself. Everything that is wild and wonderful about Florida is present along the banks of the Aucilla river. Gators, eagles, herons, ospreys and cormorants by the tree full are all expected sights on just a short trip down this river. As you approach the mouth of the river it widens into a fairly substantial bay dotted with oyster bars. Surrounding the bay are vast expanses of salt marsh. The salt marshes are a huge maze of dead end creeks and tidal streams.
The Aucilla river also offers excellent fishing during the winter months. Starting in November and lasting until February seatrout and redfish move into the river in large numbers. Anywhere in the bottom mile of the river you will find fish in great abundance. Find a spot near the channel or any other submerged structure, set anchor and start throwing your favorite trout lure. The odds of missing the fish are almost nil. People come from as far away as Alabama to experience the quality fishing offered during the cooler months of the year. Some of the finest holes are within a hundred yards of the lower boat launch. Many anglers will never even start their motors except to load their boats back on to their trailers. There are some lures that work better than others. The best lure for redfish is a gold spoon and the best for trout is a hot pink shallow diving crankbait. The big decision is which fish is your primary target. You will find that you will catch both species regardless of the lure you choose. Any shallow running crankbait will catch its share of fish and of course all the usual natural baits are a sure success. There are several reasons why the Aucilla river remains a quality angling area. First is the fact that it’s located in the heart of Florida’s largest publicly owned coastline. Being far from major towns and cities helps keep the Aucilla from feeling the same heavy fishing pressure that other areas along the coast are subject to. If you’re planning an extended or overnight trip to the Aucilla river there are a few things to keep in mind. The nearest campground is twelve miles away. It’s located on another quality river, the Econfina. If you stay there it will be easier to launch there, run out a mile and head west down the coast until you see the Aucilla River entrance marker. That will be just about four miles down the coast. Other than camping there are motels thirty miles to the east in Perry. If you are coming from the west your best selection for places to stay will be in Tallahassee proper but this will leave you with about a fifty mile drive to the river.
Access to the Aucilla river is provided by two launch sites. The upper site is located one mile east of Aucilla River bridge on route 98. This will be the first left after the bridge if you are traveling east. The lower launch is located on the right side one and half miles beyond the bridge if you are traveling in the same easterly direction. The lower launch is the by far the launch of choice for saltwater anglers. By launching at the lower ramp you will avoid about three miles of very tricky running in the river. If you are coming from the east don’t worry if you pass the road to the lower launch. You will be able to turn around just up the road at J.R.’s Aucilla River store. J.R. is a topnotch fisherman and knows the river as well as anyone alive. He is also the closest thing to a guide the Aucilla has. He will be happy to bring you up to date on the best patterns and locations as well as provide you with any of the lures, bait or fuel you may need for the trip. Take his advice about fishing or navigational hazards seriously. As the local saying goes “nobody knows the Aucilla like J.R..”
The Aucilla River is one of those places that takes a little more work to get to and a little more caution once you’re there, but these are the very things that make any wilderness exciting. If you would like to see what Florida looks like without the tourist trappings and enjoy some great fishing while you’re at it visit the Aucilla. This is one of the last wild Florida rivers.
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