There were few fishing reports this week. It wasn’t that there weren’t many fish being caught, but more that there weren’t many fishermen out there to catch them.
It’s been nasty. If the wind wasn’t blowing, it was raining. If it wasn’t raining it was arctic cold. Most of the time, it’s been all three.
The St. Johns River and area lakes: The speckled perch remain the best bet. They’re beginning to spawn, pushed by falling water temperature. And they’re spreading out, being caught in more places.
Orange Lake, Lake Lochloosa and Newnans Lake are all still good bets, but Dunn’s Creek, Black Creek and Trout and Six-Mile Creeks and Crescent Lake are getting into the action.
The story of the week comes from the Rodman Dam where those fishing the abutments and docks have been doing well on specks and bass.
Jimmy at Messer’s Bait & Tackle weighed a 13 pound, 6 ounce largemouth bass caught Wednesday off the handicapped dock at the dam. The angler swears he caught the fish on a small crappie jig, fishing for specks. Jimmy could not confirm the story, but says the guy’s a regular and not prone to flights of angling fancy — or excessive drug or alcohol use.
Jimmy’s trying to run a photo down for us, so maybe we can see this fish next week.
Otherwise, the catfish bite is good, and the biggest bluegill of the year are usually taken in December and January.
The Intracoastal Waterway: The other big story of the week revolves around the big chill that settled over the area and the fish that were killed by it.
Judge Bob Mathis was first to report seeing about 100 snook dead or dying on his home waters of Pellicer Creek. Guide Leon Dana who fishes out of Palm Valley reported floating snook, juvenile tarpon, catfish and mullet — and tons of birds lining up along the banks eating the cold-shocked fish. He saw water temperatures of 47 in advance of the kill, but said the water up there was 59 Thursday afternoon.
Ben Williams reported large kills of tilapia up around his home near Julington Creek.
The payoff of the cold snap is the creeks are really clearing up. The cold kills the algae and other growths in the water, and leaves the water clean and clear.
Most of the bait shops have been out of fiddler crabs, or we’d likely have a good sheepshead report. But the bait store folks say they should have them by today. This is the time to catch nice sheepshead, as they’re filling with roe ahead of a February spawn.
The Atlantic: Surf fishing may be OK but I couldn’t find anyone willing to brave the weather to give it a try. I do know that high-50s surf temperature have pushed any pompano left farther south. They usually winter down around New Smyrna, but are all the way down to Canaveral and Fort Pierce because of the cold.
Some of the bigger boats got out this week and reported fair catches of wahoo and blackfin tuna. The bottom guys found a few grouper, mutton snapper and the regular mix of pink porgies, redeyes and a few triggerfish.
Captain Robert Johnson likes the cold weather for finding pelagics such wahoo, dolphin and tuna. When the cold water spreads east out toward deeper water, it runs smack into the warm Gulf Stream water, forming a clear temperature break — and that’s where the striking fish will be, and where you should be too. A 2-degree break can make a huge difference, Robert says. And he knows.
The weather: Northerly winds will blow at 10- to 15 knots this weekend, pushing uncomfortable seas up to five feet inside 20 miles — bigger farther out.
Calendar: The Ancient City Game Fish Association meets Jan. 16 at the St. Augustine Shrine Club on Moultrie Creek. Social starts at 6 p.m. Hot chili is dished up at 6:30 p.m. and the general meeting and program begins at 7 p.m. Members are asked to bring their special recipe chili for the annual cook-off. Cash prizes will be awarded. Alka-Seltzer will be provided.
There will be a separate craft program for the kids. Newcomers are welcome to come by. It’s always a family event.
Jim Sutton writes the weekly fishing report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.