Fishing Report: Kingfish Challenge kicks off Friday

Contributed Austin Dixon, 10, fished with granddad Cole Childers on docks down around Marineland to catch some pretty mangrove snapper. The fish hit shrimp on a jig head. Austin says you had to get right up next to the pilings to score.

The St. Johns River and area lakes: It’s pretty much the panfish and catfish bite in freshwater. Some of the anglers there are saying that some of the bluegill and shellcracker have roe in them, so there should be a spawn this weekend. There’s a full moon Saturday night.


The catfish bite is red-hot, and the bulk of the fish are in that perfect eating range — between 1 and 2 pounds.

The big news is that there’s been a real strange surge of speckled perch on Newnan’s Lake all week. One bait shop owner said some of the customers are picking up minnows before dawn and returning by as early as 9 a.m. with a limit. That’s 50. And that’s called “a mess of fish.”

Both Lochloosa and Orange Lake are OK for the specks, but the average catch is 10 to 15 keepers per boat.

Bass fishing is predictably slow, unless you can find a school of shad before the sun gets too high. Best bite is 6 to 8 a.m.

Hopefully most all the freshwater fish will have calmed down after the July 4th weekend when they get no peace at all.

The Intracoastal Waterway: Few reports this week were of great catches. It was sub-par fishing, if that makes any sense.

The flounder bite that had been good was only fair, and none of the fish I heard about had any size to them. No one was talking about speckled seatrout. Redfish were generally under-to-low slot. The exception was over on the St. Johns where the guides can’t seem to catch one small enough to keep. Yeah, that’s odd.

Probably the best bite has been for black drum and mangrove snapper. The drum have been big and the majority of the mangroves under the 10-inch limit.

Mud minnows or small live shrimp free-lined or under a cork are the bait of choice for the snapper. Cut crab has been doing most of the damage on the drum. A redfish is just as likely to pick up your bait. And all the small, pesky bait-stealers have a tough time separating your from your crab knuckle — at least for long enough to get a real bite.

Catch of the week went to Captain Leon Dana who caught back-to-back tripletail of 16 and 18 inches on mud minnows up around Pine Island — dirty water and all.

The Atlantic: Water temperatures went way down real fast and the hot bite of kings, cobia, amberjack, bonito and jack crevalle seemed to have just shut down. That’s a shame with the Ancient City Gamefish Association’s big tournament this weekend. But, if all the fish are small, your small one may win. And if the fish are few and far between, at least you know the rest of the fleet is catching crap, too. It all evens out.

But the big exception will be the decided advantage of the big, go-fast boats that will likely run south as far at Cape Canaveral get a big fish.

Surf fishing has been tough, with generally dirty, cooler water. The only real action has been on ribbonfish under the county pier. There are tons of them, and some locals have been loading up, likely for the Kingfish Challenge. They’re a great bait for big kingfish.

There was one report from trolling out near the 21-fathom bottom this week. One of the Jodi Lynn boats released a sailfish, and iced down to blackfin tuna and a lone dolphin.

Bottom fishing has been more challenging because of a thermocline out there where cold water is blanketing the bottom. Those fishing the Nine-Mile bottom seem to be fighting the same colder water and that means one thing if you’re bottom fishing — puppy sharks, and lots of them.

Even the surface temps are dropping. The beach was 74 degrees Thursday. It was in the low 80s earlier.

So things are just kind’a messed up.

Calendar: If you want to have some fun, head over to Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor Friday afternoon around 1. The Ancient City Gamefish Association kicks off with the junior angler contingent. Weigh-in is between 1 and 3 p.m. The kids compete in four categories — the small fries, age 10 and under for both redfish and kings, and juniors, 11 to 18, for both species as well.

The grownups fish Saturday and Sunday. And there is an offshore and inshore tournament for them as well.

You can catch the weigh-ins for these from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday and 2-4 p.m. on Sunday.

The weather: Looks like southerly winds at 10-15 knots Saturday and seas at 2-4 feet. It will still blow from the south Sunday, but seas are forecast to lay down to 2-3 feet.


Contact Jim Sutton at