Fishing Report: Water, water, everywhere

Contributed Will Smith with a beautiful 32-inch speckled sea trout caught ahead of the hurricane north of the Matanzas Inlet. Contributed Will Smith with a beautiful 32-inch speckled sea trout caught ahead of the hurricane north of the Matanzas Inlet.

The St. Johns River and area lakes: A Ouija board would give you as good a freshwater fishing report as me.


Out of around two-dozen bait shops and guides I call from the western part of the county, I could get through to two. One sold a pound of shrimp since Tuesday.

But it’s certain the river, and the lakes in particular, are swelling with water, which isn’t such a bad thing, unless you live near them.

The only thing that might be helpful is that when the water rises like it has, then slowly begins to fall, the panfish move into the swamps for fresh forage and are tough to fish for because you can’t go where they are. If you find an area where there is a lot of runoff, catfish will stack up in the deeper water next to the flow because it brings fresh food for them.

But I can tell you this. The water down south around Lake George is horribly high. Guide Adam Delaney who makes his living from Welaka to the lake said, “It’s higher than anyone living has ever seen.” He said he took his boat along that stretch of river Wednesday and there’s not a dock on the river that’s not either badly damaged or simply gone.

He estimated that 100 homes in the area are filled with water. There’s no gasoline anywhere down there, with the nearest open stations in Palatka. There are 40-foot cruisers in people’s yards.

He has a small fishing camp on Crescent Lake. He said he waded through waist-high water for over a mile with a chainsaw on his shoulder to get there.

With all the flotsam that’s bound to be in the water, the best thing you can do in freshwater this week is don’t.

The Intracoastal Waterway: It’s pretty much the same thing in brackish water. Very few reports from one or two bait shops still open.

Captain Leon Dana fishes out of Palm Valley. He reports that he took a salinity meter with him on a recon drive south Wednesday. The meter read dead zero in Palm Valley — which means pure fresh water. It read seven around Palencia and 12 up at Guana. It was 27 in the inlet at high incoming water. Pure ocean water is about 32.

But despite that, the fishing south of Pine Island was good. He took advantage of the huge high tide Wednesday and said he had as good a trip as he’s ever had fishing in the spartina grass on the east side of the ICW. He spotted 15 tailing reds and his charter managed to hook three.

I can’t tell you much else except both Leon and Captain Rob Bennett said the river is just choked with mullet. The tarpon are destroying them in the inlet. Leon said it’s a bloodbath worth witnessing a little farther north when schools of jacks terrorize the mullet.

Captain Scott Shank reported that the docks at the Vilano ramp are gone. The ramp is open, but there’s nowhere to tie up. He drove by the lighthouse ramp and said the concrete docks are cracked. That ramp may or may not be open. The ramp at the south seems to be OK, he said. There’s no answer at the pier, so I assume it’s temporarily closed, but the word is that it made it through the storm OK.

The sheepshead bite went crazy under the Vilano Bridge.

But that’s about all I could find out.

The Atlantic: With up to 18-foot seas forecast during the storm, there are absolutely no reports of anyone sticking their bow outside the inlet. You can bet it’s ugly for several miles off the beaches and unappealing farther east.

This seems to be a weekend to rake your yards, and dry out your homes.

The weather: We’ll have northerly winds all weekend with winds at 10 to 15 knots, but seas of 5 to 7 feet. Inland waters will be choppy, but if you’ve been cooped up in a house with no power, eating Chef Boyardee spaghetti out of a can, that might look mighty appealing to get out, bumpy or not.

Calendar: Ancient City Game Fish Association will meet Tuesday, Sept. 19, at the St Augustine Shrine Club, 250 Brainard Rd. in St. Augustine South. Social will begin at 6 p.m., followed by light food at 6:30 and the general meeting at 7. The speaker will discuss local inshore fishing. For information, go to

Jim Sutton writes a weekly fishing report. Contact him at