Fishing report: Lots of flotsam, be careful

The St. Johns River and area lakes: If you’re planning a freshwater trip to any of the lakes this weekend, be sure to call ahead. Several lakes have been closed by the FWC because they’re too high. More likely the homeowners on these lakes don’t want boats waking what’s left of their porches and patios — but it’s something to be aware of either way.


The St. Johns River itself is open. But, if you’re running the river, there’s substantial danger of hitting all manner of flotsam out there. So be careful.

The big question most have right now is what did the hurricane do to the river shrimping.

The answer, as best I can tell, is no one knows, and very few care right now with as much damage as there is to worry about.

Conventional wisdom hasn’t meant much this year, but it would dictate that the shrimp have been pushed north because of the backup of fresh water due to both the big Northeaster and Irma last week — then add on 15 inches of rain.

If there are any shrimp left in the river, they’re likely north of Green Cove Springs.

But, again, several of the boat ramps along the river have been closed because of flooding. So there hasn’t been any kind of concerted effort to find shrimp.

If you’re looking for bluegill and other panfish this weekend, fish as far back in the vegetation as you can. Catfish will be the best bet because they’ll stay in the drops off the shoreline, waiting for the food to flow out to them with dropping water levels.

Tom the bait man told me Thursday he saw pictures of a 68-pound channel cat caught next to the Rodman Dam last week. He did not know which side. But there is supposed to be a real hot run of fat speckled perch in the spillway on the Ocklawaha side of the dam. They’re letting a lot of water out of the reservoir there.

The Intracoastal Waterway: The short story is that 80 percent of the fishing and 90 percent of the catching has been from the Vilano Bridge to the Bridge of Lions, or the flats inside the Matanzas Inlet.

Most of the fishing is being done on the rising tides, which are bringing fresh saltwater in. And that’s where the fish want to be.

Guides have been catching some reds, but lots of them are undersized. You can cut down on that by using live finger mullet, which the ICW is thick with right now. You’ll likely not find live shrimp this weekend anyway.

The flounder bite was slow. The best bite has been speckled trout, probably because more than most species, they have an aversion to dirty water.

The one exception is the redfish bite on high tides up in the spartina grass. That kind of fishing has been very good. It’s sight fishing so it’s fun. Just don’t let one of those big tides get out from under you, or you’ll be spending a lot of time back there, waiting for another tide to float you back out.

The jacks are terrorizing the finger mullet schools. That can be some seriously entertaining light tackle or topwater fishing.

The Atlantic: A couple of the charter boats got out this week. I heard of one wahoo caught out in the deep water. Head boats did half days and did OK on vermillion snapper and baby sharks.

The tarpon are still thick around the St. Augustine Inlet, wearing out the schools of mullet moving in and out of the inlet.

That’s about it.

What’s fixed: The Vilano Boat Ramp has opened back up after a post-hurricane closing. The ramp and the east side of the parking area will be open. The west side remains closed due to debris staging.

Butler ramp is OK.

The county pier was damaged, losing about 200 planks. The pier crew has been working all week and expects it to be open by the weekend, and maybe by this morning. Call ahead to be sure, 209-0326.

The weather: Looks like a washout for offshore fishing. We’ll be under another Northeaster Saturday, Sunday and Monday with only 10-15 knot winds, but 6- to 8-foot seas, thanks to Hurricane Marie heading north in the Atlantic. We don’t need her any closer than that. Amen.