The St. Johns River and area lakes: Catch of the week was a 25-pound channel cat caught on a Zebco close-face reel. Reaffirming the old adage, “big baits, big fish,” the catfish inhaled a whole dead stumpknocker on a circle hook.
These giant catfish actually taste about as good as the smaller ones. It’s just important not to skin them like the smaller ones. Rather than skinning pliers, use a knife and make your cut about a quarter-inch above the skin. That gets rid of the red meat and also a mucous layer the larger fish have.
But there are plenty of the smaller versions in the river right now, if you prefer them.
The speckled perch spawn pooped out again on last week’s full moon. And with these radical temperature swings, there’s no telling what they’re up to.
The cold weather put the big largemouth bass spawn off as well. But these fish will return to the beds fanned out all along the river when the weather moderates this weekend.
The bluegill bite is excellent. Some stripers are being caught at the Shands Bridge and the railroad trestle just south of Palatka.
There is also a red-hot bite of stripers just below the Rodman Dam, but it seems that you have to get after them at night. They’re hitting jigs and plastic tails twitched fast.
The Intracoastal Waterway: The wind has blown so much this week there are few reports. The sheepshead bite is probably the best thing going, but the cold weather has forced the fiddler crabs deep into the mud, and there are none to be had at local bait shops right now.
The cold snap has seemed to bunch up the speckled trout and there are some nice 20-inchers being caught.
The cold also seems to have pushed a new wave of small bluefish into the inlet and out into the ICW. And, strangely, jacks are in the river as well.
The flounder bite has been non-existent. Black drum are biting and they’re getting hefty. The bridges and deeper cuts around oyster bars are where they’re being targeted.
The redfish are tough to pattern. And, again, few have been out in the wind looking for them. But with water temperatures in the low 60s and even the high 50s, the shallow, dark bottomed flats are likely where the larger fish will be, soaking up all the warmth they can get.
The Atlantic: Nobody’s been outside the inlets since last weekend. Just before all the wind, the tuna bite was excellent in 150 to 180 feet of water. The occasional wahoo is being taken.
Many hope that picks up, because the Conch House hosts its 8th Annual Wahoo Challenge this week. Fishing days are today and Saturday. That looks like some good weather, which is supposed to turn late Saturday or early Sunday morning.
The weigh-ins are from 5-8 p.m. both afternoons. Lots of folks seem to enjoy these, even if they’re not fishermen. You’ll see them with a camera in one hand and a Goombay Smash in the other.
If nothing else, it’s an awfully pretty way to spend an afternoon.
The weather: Friday and Saturday look good, with southwest winds at 10-15 knots and seas of 2-3 feet. The seas are supposed to build to 6 feet late Saturday out past 20 miles. Sunday, the winds will swing around from the northeast and make things bumpy out there.
Calendar: The Ancient City Game Fish Association hosts its seventh annual Free Kids Fishing Clinic at St. Augustine Marina on Vilano Beach. It takes place March 25. The event is for young anglers age 12 and under. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. sharp, with a fishing and safety clinic at 8 a.m. The first 150 kids receive a free fishing goodie bag. Awards and a raffle are at 11:30 a.m. Things wind down with a free lunch provided by McDonalds. Ya’ll come.