Optimistic eyes on the full moon Friday

Betty Cable with a whopper 3-pound specked perch she caught with husband, George, in Haw Creek this week. The couple came in with 33 specks that day.

The St. Johns River and area lakes


I know. You hear this a lot. But fishermen are an optimistic clan, if nothing else. It’s going to be good fishing this weekend.

Bass and the panfish are very late in spawning this year. The best explanation is that winter has not really been winter here, with record high temperatures punctuated by tiny windows of cold.

Fish don’t have calendars; they just react to water temperatures and lunar intangibles.

The best bass fishermen are all going to be out on the water this weekend because they are sure a monster spawn will take place around Friday’s full moon. The speckled perch guys are betting the same thing. We’ll see.

But Friday night is an interesting one, because the full moon coincides with a penumbra eclipse and a comet fly-by.

The eclipse, if you’re not looking for it, could go unnoticed. It’s a subtle one, when the moon simply looks darker than normal. Only those on the east coast will see it, beginning at around 5:45 p.m. and showing up best at 7:44 p.m.

The comet makes its nearest approach to earth since 1983. Astronomers say to look east at around 3 a.m. The comet, we’re told, will have a blue-green head, trailing the normal “tail.”

But back to fishing.

The bass are already bedding from Palatka south, but they’re kind of tiptoeing into it. With the full moon, anglers are expecting to see bedding activity explode.

Whether or not it does, you can still expect to catch big bass holding off the beds and whopper bluegills, locally called “copperheads.” The catfish bite is really on right now.

The speckled perch bite is getting better, too. But it’s weird. Anglers on Lake Lochloosa and Orange Lake are now catching specks “in the bonnets” and that usually means the females are bedding. But the fish being caught back up in the lily pads are carrying little, if any, roe. They’re catching limits of the popular panfish — and that’s 50.

The Intracoastal Waterway

There’s a little bit of everything biting now and not much of any one species. Sheepshead are cooperating the most, but none of the bait shops had fiddler crabs mid-week and were not expecting more by the weekend.

There are tons of undersized redfish and trout out there right now, with enough legal ones to make a good supper.

Black drum are still biting on bridge pilings.

Speaking of that, the Vilano pier reopened this week and the word is that sheepshead are just thick under there, not being troubled by anglers over the past few months.

Bluefish have made their way into the ICW. They should pester you regularly, especially if you’re using live bait.

Flounder continue to be nowhere anglers are looking for them.

The Atlantic

The bite offshore remains good. In the deep water, high-speed trollers were catching five or six wahoo up north off Mayport, where an eddy of clean water spun off the Gulf Stream.

The blackfin tuna bite remains a very good bet. The number of sailfish is unexpectedly good for this time of year. We heard of no dolphin out there this week.

The cobia bite remains red-hot out in 100 feet of water. Just look for the boats bumping bows out there or just follow the sound of loud cussing.

The bottom fishermen did well out in deeper water on triggerfish. Vermillion snapper, pink porgies and black sea bass were biting closer in.

In the surf, the whiting bite picked up nicely and the fish have been “bulls” of a pound or more. The best reports have come from the North Beaches, especially up at Mickler’s Landing, where the beach access opened up last week after being torn up by Hurricane Matthew.

The weather

It’s one of those marine forecasts you should eye like an ex-con too close to the good silver. It’s calling for northerly winds at 15-20 knots with seas at 2-3 feet, diminishing Sunday to 1-2 feet. Don’t bet on it.