Fishing Report: Shrimp boats, a mullet run and African Pompano

Contributed Captain Rob Bennett with Amber Patterson and a wahoo she caught this week in 60 feet of water east of the Matanzas Inlet. The fish hit a slow-trolled pogy.

The St. Johns River and area lakes: For whatever reason, speckled perch fishing on Crescent Lake is excellent. There were reports of a couple of limits, and the anglers were culling a lot of small fish.

 

The trick was fishing docks, pitching live minnows or small, 1/32-ounce jigs under them.

This is normally the time these fish find cooler, deeper water more to their liking. But this year has been full of surprises when it comes to when fish show up and when they don’t.

The bluegill and shellcracker bite is great right now up and down the river.

There’s a pretty good bite of yellowmouth trout and croakers in the channels adjacent to the Shands Bridge. The mullet fishermen on the abutments are doing pretty well. But one enterprising angler is taking nightcrawlers to what’s called the “mullet wall” after dark and destroying big catfish there.

Otherwise it’s pretty normal fishing, other than the regular mess that occurs every year around this time when jet skis and water skiers mess up the fishing. It’s definitely not the best time for a weekend fishing trip. But if you take a look at a map, or get into Google Earth, you should be able to find some creeks or coves out of the fray. It’s fun looking for them and fun looking around in them. And it’s a great way to find your own “spots” where you can usually fish alone when you want to.

The Intracoastal Waterway: It has been an excellent week for brackish water fishermen. The big thing going is the flounder bite, which is great. Most of the guides were icing up to a dozen flounder, and that’s with some judicious culling of those 13-inch “sandwich” fish that shouldn’t be legal anyway.

They’ve been spread out: under docks, in creek mouths and back up the creeks around oyster bars. There’s a ton of finger mullet in the ICW right now, so it shouldn’t be hard to find bait. And where there’s bait, there’s usually fish nearby. Most of the guys say they’re picking up two or three fish in each spot and moving on.

The redfish and trout bit hard this week as well. There are a lot of tiny reds in the river. If you find them, leave them. The legal reds will likely be somewhere else.

Trout fishing has been good as well. Early mornings and late afternoons are always the trick, and the bigger fish will fall for topwater plugs.

There’s a relatively new plug that a lot of folks are bragging about right now — the Rivert2Sea Whopper Plopper. I just bought one and test drove it off a Butler Beach dock, and it is completely different from anything else out there, with a revolving tail that makes a very distinct plopping sound. You would not want to throw it anywhere near a school of bluefish because the things costs an arm and a leg. But, if you’re like me, and have to have one of everything, they’re for sale at most of the local shops.

The Atlantic: June generally means two things — a mullet run and the opening of shrimping season inside the three-mile limit.

Somebody must have told the mullet, because the county pier reports big schools of smoking-sized mullet showed up Wednesday. One guy with a cast net threw once and pier princess Donna Frantz said he had to walk it up to the sand. It was too heavy to pull up the pier. Donna called late Thursday afternoon saying that buckets of whiting were being caught and pogy pods were just off the pier, with jacks and tarpon busting them up.

The shrimp season opened this week. It has become increasingly important for guides and increasingly fun for anglers. Captain Guy Spear said Thursday, while we were talking by phone, he could see nine boats working the shallower waters.

What this does is create a kind of seafood cafeteria for tarpon, and sharks. The boats continually cull trash fish caught in the shrimp nets overboard.

The shark fishing has become a real hit with charters, most of whom just want to get yanked on by something big — and the word “shark” seems to especially whet their angling appetites. It’s also an easy 10-minute trip out the inlet, which is good for kids, older folks and those prone to intestinal chumming.

The kingfish bite out on the local reefs and wrecks is off the charts right now. Spear had his limit by 8:30 a.m. and was looking for something else to do to keep the fares happy. These are small fish right now, averaging maybe 10 pounds, but some 20-pounders are being caught.

Captain Rob Bennett got a nice surprise when a wahoo hit his bait Wednesday.

There have been a few sailfish jump inside 60 feet too, drawn there by tremendous schools of baitfish. The pogies have shown up in droves as well, and giant schools are concentrating just off the beaches.

There were no reports of trolling offshore because there’s just not much out there in the way of striking fish.

Most of the charter boats are bottom fishing and picking up some mutton and mangrove snapper, triggerfish, pink porgies and the occasional cobia.

The big African Pompano showed up this week, and several were caught up to 35 pounds.

Surf fishing has been OK, with whiting and a few pompano hanging around. Spanish mackerel have been feeding around the county pier because big schools of glass minnows have been hanging there too.

The weather: We’ll have northwest winds Saturday with 2- to 3-foot seas. Winds will swing around from the southwest Sunday, with 10- to 15-knot winds and seas at 3 feet or less.

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