You’ll note a pattern in all of our fishing areas this week. That’s that few anglers have been out over the past week in freshwater and brackish waters, and nobody has been out of the inlet into the Atlantic waters — at least that I can tell. So …
The St. Johns River and area lakes: The anglers sufficiently brave to fish freshwater this week connected with speckled perch. What may be important is that more of the female fish caught have been showing some roe. And those fishing for them are finding more of the females just off the edges of lily pads and bonnets.
Generally, that means the big girls are staging off the vegetation in 6-10 feet of water, waiting for whatever that biological switch is that sends them into the pads to spawn. The majority of fish caught this week in the vegetation are males, whose job it is to go in first and set up housekeeping for the girls, and, I imagine, gussy up as best they can for the more social part of the spawn.
The boats spider-rigging the deeper parts of the lakes are still doing well on those specks yet to feel the pull of aquatic amore.
While a very few folks I talked to are targeting bluegills, this is about the best time to catch what locals call copperheads — the big bluegills. Their spawn is in late spring or very early summer. So they’re not bunching up. But any of the normal places you seek them out should be a good bet.
The real secret to loading up on them remains chumming with gar roe, which is called “panfish crack.” A little goes a long way. You don’t want to feed them, you just want to tempt them — and roe will draw fish to you from a good ways up current. That said, it’s best to deploy it in an area where there is some current to move the scent, but not a lot of current to completely disperse it. Think a small indentation in the pads, or the down side of a submerged tree.
There are some early reports of bass beginning to bed. The first of this action always takes place in the spring runs on Lake George because of the 72-degree water temperatures.
The Intracoastal Waterway: It has been pretty much hunt-and-peck for the guides working the ICW this week. Most of the reports are of a couple of legal reds, a few black drum or sheepshead around the oyster bars and a couple of legal speckled seatrout if you’re lucky.
Few of the guides actually target sheepshead for their customers because it takes a touch that’s pretty hard to teach in a half-day on the water. But anglers who can get fiddler crabs and target sheepshead on jetty rocks or dock pilings are doing well.
Surprisingly I didn’t hear much about bluefish this week, but they should be out there wearing out just about anything you’re throwing, whether it’s live bait or lures.
The Atlantic: I did not get a single report from outside the inlet this week. I don’t believe anyone got out there. But several boats are planning trips today and through the weekend, including the local head boats.
If you can get out to deeper water, most of the better captains are expecting a real good bite of wahoo and blackfin tuna. The week of cold temperatures should have dropped water temperatures inside the warmer Gulf Stream, leaving a marked temperature break where they converge. That’s a place these pelagic fish like to gather. We’ll see.
Surf fishing has been uncomfortable but probably good. The county pier had a good bite of bull whiting Wednesday, but no one brave enough to give it a real try Thursday in that windy chill.
Weather: Saturday looks like a day to slip out the inlet. North winds are forecast at 5 knots with seas 1 to 2 feet. Sunday winds will be out of the northeast at 5 to 10 knots with 2- to 3-foot seas.