Fishing Report: Storms’ effects linger on fishing

Contributed Claude Weeks and his 135-pound tarpon caught 55 years ago outside the St. Augustine Inlet.

The St. Johns River and area lakes: The bass bite is going strong, but the trick has been to fish seawalls and docks. The best bait by far is live shrimp, but netting them has been tough lately. The shrimping down by Welaka that was so good last week isn’t anymore.

 

With all the rain, that’s expected. It drops the water salinity in the river and runs the shrimp north, seeking saltier climes.

But that normally coincides with a mullet run at the same time, and they are still staging up in Lake George by the acre. These are generally roe mullet. The big migration will happen, but it’s likely the uncommonly warm water (and air) temperatures are holding them back.

The first northeaster that brings the speckled perch bite on Lake Lochloosa keeps getting better. But the word is that the fish are getting smaller and that some of the anglers are going out twice a day and bringing limits back each time — which is illegal. A 50-fish-per-day-per-person is more than gluttonous as is. But with two or three folks per boat, do the math. No lake can withstand that kind of pressure for long and those who know something about this kind of thing believe Lochloosa will pay for these excesses not far down the road.

The bluegill bite is great, but the trick has been to go inside the shoreline vegetation and fish the flooded trees. Flip a cricket or wiggler up in there and hold on. An added bonus is it’s generally the big ones up in there while the little guys stay out.

The Intracoastal Waterway: The ugly, fresh water is still making things difficult and keeping most of the catching centered around the inlets where there’s a fresh infusion of saltwater on incoming tides.

Flounder have been tough to find as are speckled sea trout. The best bite this week has been on black drum, most in the 3- to 5-pound class.

Next would be the redfish, but there are lots of little rat reds mixed in, so it’s likely you’ll do a bunch of culling.

If you just want to get your line stretched, the jack crevalle are there to oblige. Net some live finger mullet and toss them around the St. Augustine Inlet and you’ll get all the fight you want.

Better yet, replace the treble hooks on a big, noisy, garish-colored topwater plug that you should have thrown away years ago. Replace them with one 4/0 j-hook, and it doesn’t hurt to mash down the barb — you won’t shake one off.

That’s the kind of fun you can do for a while. There are also a bunch of juvenile tarpon mixed in. That will definitely send your arms home early.

The Atlantic: Only a couple boats have been outside the inlet since Irma. The Jodi-Lynn went out last weekend. Captain Robert Johnson said the water was pretty ugly until he got out past 140 feet. Then it was the normal mix of triggerfish, redeyes, porgies, amberjack, the occasional grouper and throngs of red snapper.

There were no reports of the local reefs and wrecks.

The weather: East winds will blow Saturday at 10 to 15 knots with seas 3 to 5 feet and bigger out past 20 miles. East winds Sunday at 5 to 10 knots with diminishing seas.

Notice: The Vilano Boat Ramp will be closed until Oct. 31 for a dredging project. The Bait Shack will stay open, though, if you’re looking for bait.

Calendar: The Ancient City Game Fish Association and North East Florida Marlin Association team up to host “Pink Up The Pace” and the “Reel in the Cure” charity tournaments scheduled Oct. 21 out of Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor. This is both an inshore redfish tournament and an offshore competition for sailfish, gamefish or bottom fish. There’s a kickoff party/captain’s meeting set for 6 p.m. Oct. 20. There will be raffles, cocktails and fun. It is open to the public. For more information on the inshore event call Donna at 814-0515. For the offshore event call Scott at 234-7182.

A fishing story: Last week a file showed up on the desk full of fishing pictures and old newspaper clippings. To make a long story short, Mr. Claude Weeks dropped it off. He saw a “Remember When” photo in The Record about a 121-pound tarpon caught in 1953 by Willis Capo. The caption read that it held the tarpon weight record “for many years.”

It may have been Weeks that took it down. He’s pictured here in 1962 with his 135-pounder, hooked outside the inlet on a dead spot, and caught with the late Dr. Joe Shelley aboard. Mr. Weeks, now 91, said he fought the fish all the way to the Bridge of Lions and back into the inlet where it was finally brought to gaff off the Davis Shores seawall. Shelly, at the time, was Weeks’ doctor, tennis partner and fishing buddy — in his spare time he was St. Augustine’s mayor on that well-remembered day. Weeks was the administrator for the then-newly renovated Flagler Hospital.

Week’s said that the tarpon they caught that day were “hung in trees” in Shelley’s backyard and fed to the gators at the alligator farm the next morning. “You would have been surprised at how quickly those gators devoured those huge, cold and stiff tarpon.”

Thanks for sharing Mr. Weeks. Nice fish, for sure.

Jim Sutton writes the weekly fishing report. Contact him at jim.sutton@staugustine.com.

 

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