The St. Johns River and area lakes
River shrimping continues to get better, but the real action seems confined to the area around Palatka. Although we ought to have learned that there is no “normal” shrimp run, we would have expected larger shrimp to be down around Welaka and Lake George by now. It has not happened.
On the good side, that may mean we’re in for a longer and slightly later shrimping season — with all the best of it yet to come.
Most of the cast-netters in the thick of things are reporting being able to fill a five-gallon bucket in a couple of hours. While size makes a difference, figure a bucket of shrimp at 30-plus pounds heads on — or a good 16 pounds of cleaned shrimp.
The bream bite, if you can find anyone using a cane pole rather than a cast net, is good, with some really big copperhead bluegills being caught. Shellcracker and redbellies are scattered with the catfish along the sandbars in 8-12 feet of water.
Bass fishing is dead unless you float or free-line live river shrimp to them.
The Intracoastal Waterway
It’s been a very active week. Redfish are being caught from Palm Valley down to Flagler County. The rains and cloudy afternoons have lowered the water temperatures enough to get them goosed up a little. Some very big trout were weighed this week; two in the 8-pound range.
One of these got filleted which is a real waste both of the fish and the meal. Big trout are breeders and their promise for future stocks is immense. And big trout — especially warm water summer trout — aren’t worth eating anyway. So weight them carefully and let them go. Killing them is a doubly wasteful thing to do.
The areas around the inlets, both Matanzas and especially St. Augustine, have been ground zero. The tarpon are gorging on the mullet run. Inside the inlets it’s a conglomeration of bruiser bluefish, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, jacks and ladyfish. Guides say you can see the commotion a half-mile away as they savage huge schools of finger mullet.
Break out your light tackle, pull the treble hooks off your favorite topwater bait and replace the rear hook with a j-hook on a split ring. Shoot, pinch down the barb if you don’t relish a tug-of-war with a jack jaw (and who does?). You’ll have a ball.
There was no offshore trolling going on, other than a couple of boats that targeted sailfish and were, for the most part, disappointed by the occasional kingfish, barracuda or bonito.
But the bottom fishing has been very good. The redeyes caught out past 100 feet have been truly jumbos. The triggerfish and pink porgies are healthy as well.
The grouper fishing was good, too. But Capt. Robert Johnson says he’s found them only on the lip of the ledge. A bunch of them have been the holy grail of fall bottom fishing — scamps.
The county pier actually got rocking this week with whiting, flounder, reds, black drum, a few flounder and some small pompano.
Surf fishing has been picking up for the whiting and, especially, the redfish. We have a baby northeaster blowing down this weekend, and that often has the effect of cleaning up the water and pushing bait in closer. It may be as good a weekend as we’ve had in months to break out the surf rods.
Light northerly winds will blow Saturday and Sunday with seas forecast at 2-4 feet Saturday and 2-3 on Sunday.
Jim Sutton provides a weekly fishing report for The Record. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org