Flounder, cobia best weekend bets

Contributed Jacob and Michelle Pulco of Nocatee with a nice Palm Valley redfish caught with Captain Leon Dana of Prime Time Chargers this week.

The St. Johns River and area lakes: The panfish bite is excellent. This may be the last, best shot to get lots of quality bluegill and shellcracker this year. There is a last-gasp spawn going on over most of the area; you, know, that full moon stuff. After this, the average weight of these little scrappers takes a dump throughout the summer and into the fall.


There will be panfish aplenty, but the juveniles will be just growing up and the adults will be losing weight. They call it “getting poor” over on the river.

The good news is the shrimping opened June 1, and it’s kicking in early this year — like most everything else.

Blame it on a warm winter, but guides and regulars to the river are catching enough early shrimp to fish with. And the bass and stripers are thankful.

Now, up north of the Buckman Bridge, there’s a mix of smallish brown shrimp and big white shrimp — frying size. The mouth of Doctors Lake is a good place to start, around 24 feet deep. They won’t stay long, so get after them while they’re hot.

The saltwater fish are all over in the area from Palatka to Jacksonville. A 46-inch red buried the scale on a 30-pound Boca Grip this week. The same angler had a real nice trout as well. The secret? Baiting up with live baby croakers.

The grownup ones are still being caught up to 12 inches in the channels around the Shands Bridge.

The strangest happening on the river is the speckled perch bite. The better dock anglers are getting a couple dozen specks each, sling-shoting under docks. And most are saying that small jigs are out-fishing live minnows. They’re a lot easier to fish that way, as well.

The technique is kinda like using your rod as a bow. Grab the jig between two fingers, pull back, point the rod under the dock and let it go.

It takes a little practice, but those just getting along the dock edges are catching them as well.

Bass fishing is slow. The catfish bite is good.

As an aside, if you wonder how much it’s really been raining, one buddy who keeps a rain gauge in Palatka reported just over 24 inches in the past 26 days.

The Intracoastal Waterway: This week may be the best report from the ICW in quite a while. Everything seemed to be biting, with flounder leading the pack. Nice reds were caught, along with black drum, mangrove snapper, speckled seatrout and a few pompano and Spanish mackerel.

The reports from up around Palm Valley were poor. That’s because there’s still so much fresh, off-color water. Those guys are heading south today.

The Atlantic: Surf fishing is picking up. If the water looks bad north of either inlet, try the south side. It’s been mainly average size whiting and a few pompano if you have clams, fleas or crab baits.

The Nine-Mile bottom is eaten up with small kingfish, but the cobia are out there now as well. Several were caught Thursday up to 58 pounds. There are still plenty of barracuda, jacks and bonito there too.

The bite was also very good out a little deeper, in the 100-foot area. More cobia, fewer kingfish, which sounds good to me.

The guys bottom fishing out there were finding cobia too and a surprise bite of mangrove snapper in that 10-pound slot. Redeyes, porgies and triggerfish were there as well.

The weather: The weatherman says we’ll have southerly winds all weekend at 10-15 knots and seas at 2-3 feet.

Calendar: The Ancient City Game Fish Association’s annual membership party is Saturday at the St. Augustine Shrine Club, 250 Brainard Road. It’s a fish fry with all the fixings. Members should bring an appetizer or dessert. Social hour begins at 5 p.m. – with dinner at 6.

The meeting and awards begin at 7 p.m. A raffle follows. The club will also set signup sheets for its big kingfish/redfish tournament, set July 6-9 out of Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor. Of course, prospective members are welcome to this meeting. It’s a family-oriented club with a real emphasis on growing junior anglers. Family dues are $50 a year.