Fishing Report: Winds finally lay down for the weekend

Contributed Captain Rob Bennett of Coastal Fish Charters got a nice surprise last week when he led angler Lynn Wolfe of Milledgeville, Georgia to this pretty snook — caught on a live finger mullet in the St. Augustine Inlet. That’s an uncommon fish in these parts — legal, too.

The St. Johns River and area lakes: The St. Johns is pretty messed up. The north winds continue to back up the north-flowing river, swelling it up to two feet above normal. That, combined with as much as a foot of rain, has made fishing tough. The Northeaster re-flooded dozens of homes from Green Cove Springs down to Welaka — some just drying out from the soaking Irma gave us.

 

Many of the area lakes remain closed to boating traffic, including Santa Fe, Newnans and Sampson.

About the only freshwater report was from Lake Lochloosa, where the bluegill and speckled perch bite is terrific right now. Tom the Bait Man says these are especially big fish, thick and healthy. Limits are being caught.

There are some specks also being caught in the old barge canal leading to the Rodman Reservoir, and some being caught on the Ocklawaha side of the spillway at the dam.

If you are planning to fish the freshwater this weekend, keep a sharp eye out for floating debris left by Irma and the weekend storm.

The Intracoastal Waterway: Fishing was very good last week before the blow, but nobody’s been out that I could find since last Friday. The water is still pretty fresh and ugly. The best bet would be to stay near the inlets where some saltwater will be pushed in on the rising tides. Other than that, good luck finding a low tide.

The Atlantic: I doubt anyone has peeked outside the inlet since last week. But, for what it’s worth, the bottom fishing in 90 to 100 feet of water was really good last Friday. Captain Guy Spear netted a livewell full of finger mullet and headed out. He caught a limit of redeyes up to 2 pounds eight black sea bass, two of which went a little over 5 pounds, and more red snapper than you’d ever want to catch.

And, speaking of red snapper, I made several calls this week to folks close to federal fish management people and all believed that a mini-season on red snapper is a lot more likely than not.

We expected an announcement early in October, but that hasn’t come. The feds usually like to give at least a couple weeks of notice, so the smart money is expecting at least two weekend openings the last week of October and the first weekend of November. There is some likelihood of a third weekend opening in November as well. Let’s hope.

The word is that the limit will be 42,500 fish total, with the bulk of the allotment going to the recreational side. Commercial trip limits would remain at 75 pounds per day. Recreational anglers will be allowed one fish per day.

The maddening thing about the prior mini-seasons was the lack of a size limit. One of the main reasons for closing red snapper in the first place, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologists, was the dearth of big, spawning females. These can grow up to 50 pounds and live 50 years. They do the grunt work when it comes to replenishing the stock. But there was no size limit in the earlier mini-seasons, so anglers, understandably, targeted the largest fish they could. And if you went to any of the cleaning tables at any of the marinas on those weekends, all you saw was garbage can after garbage can overflowing with 10-pound heads, left over from 20- to 25-pound fish. Why would biologists invite an open season on the spawning fish if they’re trying to rebuild the stock?

The lack of size limits are also damaging in another way. Since everyone was targeting only big sow snapper, smaller snapper were released, sometimes by the dozens. This simply invites instances of barotrauma in the fish especially those caught in deeper water.

We’ll see if that changes this year. It needs to.

The weather: Look for southeast winds both Saturday and Sunday with seas forecast at 3 to 5 feet Saturday and 2 to 4 feet Sunday.

Jim Sutton writes a weekly fishing column. Send photos and reports to jim.sutton@staugustine.com or call 904-819-2487.

 

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Mon, 10/23/2017 - 00:21

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