Fishin column: Jacks are wild

(CONTRIBUTED/ LINDA BOREK) Since no fishing photos came in this week, here’s a fish quiz for you. Name it if you can, it is from around here and not all that rare offshore. But these girls rarely make it in the newspaper glamor shots. The photo came from reader Linda Borek.

The St. Johns River and area lakes: Oddly, the shrimp seem to have stayed in the river following the hurricane. But here’s the thing. They’re catching them off the pier in Green Cove Springs. That would be the concrete one, because the two wooden piers are gone. And they’re catching limits of shrimp down around Welaka, and they’re a mixture of small and large shrimp with no mediums to speak of in between.

 

Palatka has been the center of the activity, but a couple of the bait shop guys over that way said there were no boats on the river and nearly no netters on the city marina docks. So I don’t know what to tell you. They’re here and there, but apparently nowhere too.

Other than that, the big rains have cooled the waters and made both catfish and most of the panfish species hungry and heavy. Any where the swamps drain into, especially the creeks, the bugs and other tiny critters wash into the water and the fish line up to snap them up. The bluegill bite has been good, but the catfish bite is better. If you like what locals call “restaurant cats” — those around 8 to 10 inches (it is no coincidence that most cast iron skillets measure 10 inches) are thick right now.

The only other news is that the hybrid stripers are gathering at the famed Croaker Hole down near Welaka. But they shouldn’t be.

The Intracoastal Waterway: I’m not naming names here, but the jack crevalle are so thick right now that some charter guys are commercial fishing them. The guys at the docks on Riberia Street are paying $1.25 a pound for them — which is only slightly less weird that actually eating them.

At any rate, if you want to stretch a line, go out in the bayfront area of St. Augustine. Get some light spinning or plugging tackle and a bunch of your most beat-up topwater plugs. The smart anglers are removing the treble hooks because it’s more than a chore separating them from the bony jaws of a jack. Swap out a single J-hook instead, and you’re really smart to pinch down the barb. Then just go out there and have a ball. One of those captains said he weighed five fish that totaled 40 pounds. Eight pounds of jack crevalle is 15 pounds of most anything else out there.

Otherwise, the speckled seatrout bite has been hot, but most of the reports are of short fish. On redfish, if anglers could find any, they were nearly all under the slot. The water temperature up in Palm Valley rose back up to 80 this week. It’s cooler down near the inlets. I hear that we now have three of them, with a new one opening up at Summer Haven.

There’s still plenty of bait in the ICW.

And there’s still a good bite of big black drum under the bridges. Shrimp will do, but cut blue crab is much preferred, at least by discriminating drum fish.

The Atlantic: A couple of the bigger charter boats got out this week but stayed inside the 100-foot range. The reports were of plenty of fat beeliners and tons of voracious and yet illegal red snapper. A report from Rick Ryals up at Mayport told of slob-sized black sea bass. He contends that (and he’s pretty right most of the time) a hurricane in the Atlantic runs the sea bass off their haunts off the Carolinas and down our way. If you have some numbers for them, you might want to check it out.

That’s about it. Several boats were going out today, but not before deadline.

Have heard very little about surf fishing, but I spoke with Joe at the county pier and he says they could be back open for business today, or Friday at the latest. Call ahead. The Flagler Beach Pier lost 150 feet and will be closed for a while.

And if you’re looking for bait, you’d best call ahead too. Very few of our waterfront bait shops made it through Matthew.

One more thing, if you’re motoring around the water, keep a sharp eye out for flotsam. There are more dock rails and pilings in the water these days than above it. It is especially dangerous in the St. Johns River, and its creeks right now. So many trees are down and there’s so much stuff floating that a couple of the guides are hesitant to run at all. A cypress tree trumps a lower unit almost every time.

The weather: Saturday look for northerly winds at 10 to 15 knots and seas at 3 to 5 feet. It lies down a little Sunday with 5 to 10 knot winds and seas at 2 to 3 feet.

Jim Sutton provides a weekly fishing report for The Record. Contact him at

jim.sutton@staugustine.com

 

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