St. Johns River
and area lakes
The big news is that shrimping is on fire. This is always a moving target as they move up and down the St. Johns River, but this week, the concentrations seem to be centering on Palatka. These are probably averaging 35-count per pound heads on. Medium. But since the bigger shrimp don’t seem to be down around Lake George, the turning-around point of the annual migration, it’s a pretty good bet that the shrimp in Palatka are still heading south and growing along the way. If history is any indicator, the biggest of the shrimp run will be heading north from there in a couple of weeks.
You could tell that cast-netting was good by the line of little boats bobbing up and down Tuesday along the channel Tuesday ahead of the storm. They wouldn’t be there if it weren’t.
Otherwise you can catch a lot of 2-plus-pound bass if you net live shrimp and fish the docks. Catfish, bluegills, shellcracker and redbellies are biting well. The first reports of speckled perch are coming in, mainly from the lakes: Lochloosa, Santa Fe and at Camp Blanding.
The Intracoastal Waterway
The window between the big storm last week and the advance of the little on the first of the week was full of good reports on fishing. I suspect when things settle down a little in the ICW tomorrow, the same will hold true. If you want a redfish fight rather than a filet, fish the Vilano or 312 bridges for oversized reds. They’re congregating around the pilings, especially on the west sides. But if your target them, do so with your stouter tackle. The water temps are still warm and, while and extended fight may be exciting for humans, it can be deadly on this spawner stock. Big reel, big rods and big baits with 5/0 circle hooks are the ticket. Whip them fast and release them with care.
Slot reds are running the edges on the east side of the ICW north of the Vilano Beach all the way up to Palm Valley. Live finger mullet are doing the damage and don’t be surprised if you lock line with a 5-plus-pound speckled sea trout in the process. Several were caught this week.
The flounder bite is spotty and the fish remain on the small side. There was a report from a guide who got into some big black drum in the flats around Devil’s Elbow. The water temps were too hot for them to be in there, but apparently nobody told the fish. The biggest weighed right at 14 pounds.
Mangrove snapper are still covering the ICW around docks, riprap and jetties. Speaking of the jetties, the tarpon are crashing bait along the south rocks at the St. Augustine Inlet. Some reds have been caught by surfcasters at the little jetty on the north side.
Few boats have gotten out between the storms. A couple of the larger ones sneaked out to 21 fathoms and caught big triggerfish, pink porgies, 4-pound beeliners and mangrove snapper. Grouper were caught off and on, but one boat reported gag and six scamps.
Rumor is that the offshore mangrove — 8- to 12-pounders have moved onto the local reefs and wrecks. There really hasn’t been much activity out there on the troll, mainly because there haven’t been a lot of the smaller boats that wanted to fight the wind. We’ll just have to see how things shake out with the passing of the storm and the coming of the annual September Harvest Moon Friday.
The surf fishing seems to have picked up quickly, after an awful summer. Pompano are scattered around with them, but a good number are too small to mess with. If you want to catch both, don’t want to dig sand fleas, and don’t want every trash fish in the surf picking you apart, brine some local clams. They will make a difference, and if you’re out there anyway, why not wear them out?
Winds will subside to 5-10 knots from the southeast Saturday and Sunday. Most of the rain will have moved out by then.