Fishing Report: Kiss red snapper goodbye — again

jim.sutton@staugustine.com Captain Mike Huff, of Crappie Whisperer Charters, put Ronnie Hughes (pictured) on a big bite of speckled perch in Orange Lake on Monday. The area lakes are red-hot, with limits coming on many trips out. The fish were showing early signs of light roe, meaning the bite is really just firing up for the winter.

The St. Johns River and area lakes

 

The speckled perch bite is grabbing most of the attention in freshwater again this week. The bite is spreading out, giving anglers more choices on where to find them. Lake Lochloosa began early. Orange and Newnans lakes followed. Now Lake Dexter and Dunns Creek are showing good numbers of specks.

You could probably take your pick of any lake right now. The trick is to slow-troll or drift, covering lots of water. The fish are not stacked up, but spread out. And they are not in the lily pads yet. None of the catches we heard about this week showed much roe.

Just as good, but not as flashy, the channel catfish bite is very good. Bluegills, shellcracker and some redbellies are also on a good bite.

If you’re boatless and don’t mind a lot of company, the spillway at the Rodman Dam is supposed to be thick with panfish. Get a box or two of wigglers or some crickets and you should have supper in no time.

Suffice to say, the best fishing this week — and the only fishing this weekend — will be in fresh water.

The Intracoastal Waterway

The reports from the ICW are a little spotty. That big moon seemed to be a boon for some and a bust for others. What everyone seems to agree on is the fish are wanting live bait. With shrimp, you’ll catch lots of undersized speckled sea trout. Mud minnows are what the redfish seem to be looking for. But there is ample bait in the creeks, and live finger mullet will catch bigger, if not more, fish. Like the past few weeks, there are loads of undersized fish in the river.

Sheepshead fishing may be the best bet right now. Fiddler crabs are always the best bet for bait.

Black drum are being caught, the larger ones mainly under the Bridge of Lions and the Vilano Bridge.

The Atlantic

The additional three-day red snapper season that starts today will be another colossal bust because of weather. This weekend was a kind of makeup for the November mini-seasons, which were, for the most part, blown out as well.

If you can get outside the fishing has been good. There was a huge school of cobia that showed up out in around 90 feet northeast of the Mayport Inlet. Some of the guys say there were over 200 fish ganged up. But they were hit mercilessly over the next few days, so it’s unlikely the 50-mile run would be worth it.

Some grouper were caught this week, but they too were north of Mayport.

Local boats found lots of blackfin tuna out on the ledge. One of the Endless Summer boats reported huge schools of blackfin breaching all around the boat. They iced down 53 and put a 50-plus pound wahoo and a couple of dolphin on the deck as well.

One of the Jodi Lynn boats was out there earlier in the week bottom fishing. They reported a limit of big beeliners and triggerfish, along with a cobia.

Of course, red snapper are everywhere.

Closer in, Captain Guy Spear found some beeliners and black sea bass out on the local reefs and wrecks. He also had a 54-pound cobia show up as a nice surprise.

The weather

The whole weekend looks to be blown out. Northwest winds will blow at 15 to 20 knots, at least through Sunday, pushing seas up to 6 feet.

Calendar

Santa will make an appearance at the December meeting of the Ancient City Game Fish Association. The annual Christmas party is Saturday at the St. Augustine Shrine club. Social begins at 5 p.m. — followed by a great dinner at 6 p.m. and a visit from Santa around 7. The club is cooking Boston butts, turkeys and hams. Members are asked to bring their favorite side dish, appetizer or desert.

Santa will hand out gifts to kids age 12 and under. Please call Santa’s helper, Stephanie, at ‪669-0213‬‬‬ to ensure all the kids have something under the tree.

Wahoo shootout

The Northeast Florida Marlin Association is hosting its first annual Wahoo Challenge. Captains will fish for days of their choice between Saturday and Jan. 21. Weigh one fish per day at Camachee Cove. Entry is $300. There’s a kick-off party tonight at the Marlin Club. Ya’ll come. Go to the NEFMA home page for more info.

Jim Sutton writes a weekly fishing column. Reach him at jim.sutton@staugustine.com

 

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