Fishing Report: All eyes turn to red snapper

Contributed Ryan Cole of St. Augustine with a nice flounder caught with Captain Leon Dana of Primetime Charters.

The St. Johns River and area lakes: Half the fun of fishing is trying to figure out why they do what they do. Somewhat less fun is trying to figure out why they don’t.

 

This week the St. Johns River has been particularly slow, while the lakes seem to be on fire.

Bass and panfish angling is off. I don’t know why and don’t have any suggestions for you. And the truth is, it could be the other way around by the weekend. There is a full moon Saturday and water temperatures are dropping down to where they should be.

The early speckled perch bite in lakes is red-hot this week. The Rodman Dam is giving up some big specks on the reservoir side and in the spillway on the Ocklawaha side. The old barge canal leading to the reservoir is also a great bet to intersect some hungry specks. The lake itself is good as well, but there’s a lot of water out there and finding them may be problematic.

Likewise, Lake Lochoolsa, Newnans Lake and Orange Lake are just about foolproof for livewells full of nice specks.

If you don’t know the lakes, it really doesn’t matter. If you have a trolling motor, just run slowly — the man who knows says 1.3 knots is tops — and troll jigs, generally 1/32nd ounce to 1/16th ounce, with or without a Missouri minnow attached. If you can’t troll just run to the windward side of the lake and let the wind drift you across.

The hot colors seem to include pink and chartreuse or both. I had some hackle feather jigs made up this week with both. But I need all the help I can muster.

Here’s a secret.

If you want to get some jigs custom made, I’ve found the jig-whisperer, Dave Somer, who’ll fix them anyway you want — with any size head, combined with any size and color of hook and any color of mylar, hackle feathers or what he calls Crazy Legs. He can even attach willow leaf spinners — and that can be extra-unfair to the specks. Go to zumacrappiejigs.com. His jigs are, honestly, little works of art. He also does bass and other larger jigs.

The bluegills and other panfish are tough to find — still. The only real bite going on is catfish.

The Intracoastal Waterway: It’s been OK this week. There are lots of fish to catch, but the majority is trash fish or undersized trout and, especially, redfish. Consider that 77 anglers fished the redfish tournament for the Ancient City Game Fish Association last week and only nine legal fish made it to the scales.

The black drum are still out there, and the first good reports of sheepshead fishing are now coming in. There are mangrove snapper still around, but the legal ones are tough to find in the swarms of babies.

The Atlantic: It’s going to be nuts out there today and this weekend with the opening of the first red snapper mini-season. The weather is threatening to be borderline for the smaller boats and bumpy for the bigger ones.

One of the big problems you’re likely to experience is getting your boat in the water. The Vilano ramp is open again, but only half of the parking is available. There’s also a Florida Lure Angler inshore event there Saturday and Sunday.

Some folks are springing for a boat slip for the week in order to avoid that mess. It’s worth considering if you’re going to fish more than a couple of the six open days.

Charter boats are generally booked, but there are some spots left on the Sea Love head boat. The Jodie Lynn has some open days as does the Endless Summer. Captains Guy Spear and Chuck Stearn have some openings. Some of the charter guys are booking both day and night trips — making hay, as they say, while the sun shines. They’ve all got websites.

Bottom fishing was excellent this week on the more local stuff, with big redeyes and black sea bass biting.

Surf fishing is excellent, with cleaner water and dropping surf temps. The pompano are out there, but you won’t reach them without a rocket rod that can shoot a five-ounce sinker 100-plus yards. But the whiting bite is great, too, and these aren’t little dinks. You can get to them with your conventional gear.

It may be worth your while to buy some live shrimp, rather than the frozen stuff. That will really up your odds of catching the wayward pompano. They love fresh clams and blue crab, too. And they’re more stacked up on the north side of the inlet than the south — making their way slowly toward New Smyrna Beach where they usually hang around for a month or so.

Weather: Looks like northeast winds today through Sunday at 10-15 knots and 2- to 4-foot seas.

Calendar: The monthly meeting of the Flagler Sportfishing Club is Nov. 14, 7 p.m. at the VFW Post in Palm Coast. Speaker is Norm Manley, a TowBoatUS captain. He’ll be talking about boat safety and demonstrating some knot-tying tricks. It is also the War of the Wings contest. The club fishes its final tournament of the year for flounder and redfish Nov. 18. Call 386-585-0234 for more info.

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

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