The St. Johns River and area lakes
The more noteworthy report this week came from Lake George where this week’s full moon sent both bluegill and shellcracker fanning new beds and doing their dance of procreation. The few anglers at the few fish camps down there were not expecting such a late spawn, but Adam Delaney at Georgetown Marina says the word got out fast. Folks were coming in by 11 a.m. with limits — and that’s 50 fish per person, or enough for an entire church fish fry social. The shellcracker are on the shell bars that are prevalent across the big lake. The bluegill, fat ones, were being taken near the shorelines around Hog and Drayton Islands. Worms, crickets, grass shrimp, it did not matter. However, shellcracker are a pickier customer and prefer the wigglers, while turning their noses (called nares by scientific types) at cut shrimp.
There were scattered reports of these same spawns up and down the river. But they were smaller events, and likely about over.
The catfish bite is the best overall on the river right now. It’s best to work the deep sides of sandbars, generally in 8-12 feet of water.
The bass bite is slow. Your best bet is to net a few live river shrimp, hook and work the shady sides of docks or seawalls if you have some.
Some decent stringers of croaker were being caught in the channels around the Shands Bridge in Green Cove Springs.
The Intracoastal Waterway
While I couldn’t scare up any reports, odds are the Guana Dam fishing was redhot on the full moon when big tides flood the dam.
The general ICW fishing is fairly slow, and that’s common this time of year. Live shrimp and mud minnows have been tough to find at area bait shops to boot. Drum and oversized redfish are under the bridges. The bonus here is that they’re also in the shade.
A few big trout are still being caught on topwater lures at dawn and dusk, especially when they coincide with a high tide and cleaner water.
Most of the better flounder catches have been coming from around the St. Augustine Inlet up to a half-mile into the ICW, north and south. Docks are a good bet as well.
The water’s pushing 90 degrees in the slower areas of the ICW — just what the feisty mangrove snapper want. Fish with small shrimp or tiny mud minnows on light hooks around docks, rip-rap or other structures. They’re small, but fine eating.
The kingfish bite off the beaches and out to the Nine-Mile area has picked up again with boats trolling pogies picking up 10 or 12 a day. The reef balls bottom was the hot spot over the past few days, and apparently where a lot of the kings were caught last weekend in the Ancient City Game Fish Association’s Kingfish Challenge. Congratulations to the Four Reel team for winning the event with a two-fish aggregate of 79.82 pounds. This was especially cool because the crew was made up entirely of guys ranging from 12 to 19 years old. It’s just great to see new blood ... drawing first blood in tournament fishing.
Several sailfish, and a couple of cobia and tarpon were also caught on the troll.
The beach fishing on the pogy pods has a drawback, because you’ll lose a lot of your kingfish to sharks, which are everywhere. The shrimpers are working close in right now. If you want to have some non-stop action, get a respectful distance behind one and take advantage of the line of sharks following the boats waiting for the bycatch to be shoveled overboard. These sharks might range from 15 to 60 pounds. And most of the species you’ll catch this way are very good eating, especially blackened. Keep them cold and get their skins off and guts out as quickly possible. A soak in a salt/sugar brine never hurts to flavor the meat and draw out that little bit of “sharkiness.” The local charter captains can really straighten out the learning curve on this type of fishing. If you have kids, this may be the most memorable type of fishing you could put them on.
There was a real good bite of triggerfish in unusually shallow water, inside 75 feet this week. Vermillion snapper and the other usual suspects were on a slow bite. Those bottom fishing out in deeper water, especially the 21-fathom bottom, have been having a tough time because of a cold water inversion out there. Reports are that surface water temperatures are 87, dropping to nearly 60 degrees on the bottom. That’s lockjaw time.
The tarpon are biting all over the beaches and inlets wherever pogy pods are concentrating. They’re tough to hook because of the amount of bait in the water, but always worth it when you catch one — at least for the first half-hour or so. It becomes less fun for the next half hour, usually in direct proportion to how far on the high side of 100 pounds the fish is and how far on the high side of 60 the angler has become.
You could just as easily pull the forecast from the paper for the past 10 weeks. Southerly winds will blow at 10-plus knots with seas at 2 to 3 feet. Just watch for those afternoon thunderheads. They can turn boring around fast.