Fishing Report: Whiting, mangroves keep things interesting

Contributed If you want to know how plentiful and hungry our red snapper stock is, Caleb Moore (with fish) and Riley Connor took this snapper trolling Nine-Mile with Captain C.J. Swindull last week.

The St. Johns River and area lakes: Seems like panfish responded to the new moon Saturday. There were reports of bedding shellcracker and bluegill scattered over the area. That’s par for the course. It’s getting late in the season for that kind of activity. What you’ll probably see from here on out is what’s called “summer” panfish, which roughly translates into skinny panfish and juvenile panfish. It is not the time to load up on big, fat bluegills.


There is a special pattern to follow during these hot summer months. Generally you’ll see the more consistent anglers anchored up on the shady side of the creeks, not because of more fish, just cooler fishing weather. If you’re in a creek that winds around a lot, you’ll also want to be in line with the prevailing winds, again because it’s a lot more comfortable. And that’s the trick of the day.

The best bass fishing is either early, late or deep. And that all has to do with cooler water too. There is a theme here somewhere. Generally speaking, freshwater fish dislike real hot weather just about as much as anglers.

Catfish will continue to be a good summer bet. And they’ll be hanging just off the deeper sandbars.

The Intracoastal Waterway: The river fishing from Pine Island north to Palm Valley is terrible. The rains have sweetened the water sufficiently to run the bait south, and the fish are following them.

The fishing around our inlet has been very good for the opposite reason. Lots of flounder are being caught, but the big ones are few and far between. There was one weighed at the Vilano Bait Shack that pushed 6 pounds this week.

There are lots of small reds and trout as well. Maybe the best bet for some fun fishing and good eating is the mangrove snapper bite. They’re growing all the time and are getting to the point where you can expect to catch enough 10 inches or above for a fish fry. You’ll find them around most of the docks in the ICW now. Seawalls are a good bet, too. Bigger baits will help cut down on undersized fish, but will also cut down on the bites. Mud minnows are the preferred bait, but live shrimp are doing the job on float rigs.

The Atlantic: Surf fishing might be a good bet. If they’re catching fish at the county pier, you can bet they’re concentrating in the run-outs along the beaches. And there was a great whiting bite Wednesday evening at the pier. The water has finally cleared up, and the whiting and Spanish mackerel were biting hard. The pier is also covered up with ribbon fish as well, so it may just be a good place to jig up some kingfish baits. The only problem may be that the ribbonfish are the same size as most of the kings being caught.

There are scads of small kings out on the Nine-Mile bottom and the cobia are showing up there as well.

I was on the phone with Captain Scott Shank early Thursday morning. He was trolling that area, when he started screaming about something dumping a reel and hung up. He called back about 20 minutes later and said he had a double-header of cobia pushing 30 pounds. Just about that time, he started screaming again and hung up again.

I may start charging for these phone calls.

I had Captain Guy Spear on the phone that morning, too. He’s been chasing a fish for 45 minutes and had traveled a half mile doing it. Turned out to be a 35-pound jack.

Out in deeper water, the cool thing this week has been a crazy bite of big African pompano. These are pushing 30 pounds. The mangrove bite continues to be good, too — along with the regular triggerfish, porgies and tons of big amberjack.

If you can find a shrimp boat pulling the beach, there are lots of bonito and lemon sharks following the boats.

I called a buddy from Jacksonville to see how the bite is up there. He didn’t know because he was down around Stuart. But he said that the cobia bite is insane down there. Problem is, the sharks are horrendous. One boat had eight cobia on in a morning and lost seven to bull sharks.

Let’s hope the cobia are heading north and the bull sharks are heading south.

The weather: Winds will come out of the south Saturday at 10-15 knots, with seas at 2-3 feet. It will calm down a little Sunday with 5-10 knot seas.

Calendar: The Ancient City Gamefish Challenge will be fished July 7-9 out of Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor. You can register from 4-7 p.m. Friday, July 7. Entry for the Kingfish Challenge is $320. It’s $55 for the Redfish Challenge. Entry for junior anglers is $25. There is a mandatory captain’s meeting July 7 at 7:30 p.m.

For spectators, the weigh-ins are from 3-5 p.m. on July 8 and 2-4 p.m. on July 9.

This is an aggregate weight of two fish tournament.

Jim Sutton’s local fishing column appears each Friday. You can reach him at or call 819-3487.