Fishing Report: ICW anglers singing the blues

Marcus Osterhouse, a Flagler College student, with one of the jumbo bluefish terrorizing the ICW this week. This one came from North River near Palencia, fishing with Captain Rob Bennett.

The St. Johns River and area lakes: There were scattered reports of speckled perch action ranging from excellent to nothing.


The excellent news came from Black Creek where one angler brought in a stringer of specks (verified by a reliable source when sober) the gentleman said made up his best fishing day in eight years. He keeps a fishing journal. His stringer included 20 fish over 2 pounds.

Otherwise it continues to be weird. The fish are carrying roe but not bedding in Lake Lochloosa. And it remains a hunt for fish in most other areas. There is a full moon Tuesday, and a big speck spawn could happen. But it’s months late right now, and not a likely scenario.

But, the panfish bite is off the charts. This action generally peaks in May. But as near as I can guess, it’s kicking off a month early because, generally speaking, our temperatures are a month early.

It’s mainly bluegills and shellcracker. There is a difference, especially on where they’ll be and what they’ll eat. The bluegills will be spawning in the pads; the shellcracker on the sandy bars. Shellcracker are more picky about dining. They want worms.

You may think worms are created equal … but no, not according to Rick Hamilton at R&J Tackle in Green Cove Springs.

Scientist say there are hundreds of types of worms, but around here, you’ll find five in avant-garde tackle shops. Rick stocks wigglers, red wigglers, European nightcrawlers, Canadian nightcrawlers, mealworms, grunt worms and even a fluorescent-dyed wiggler.

Shellcracker are adept at nibbling. So the longer, softer worms aren’t your best bet. But grunt worms and mealworms are great. They’re smaller and tougher.

Bluegills eat like pigs, and love a fat nightcrawler. They also love cut river shrimp and crickets.

The catfish bite is outstanding as well and they, too, love worms and do not discriminate between the different kinds. But, big and smelly is always best.

The bass bedding has slowed down south, but is still kicking from Palatka north.


The Intracoastal Waterway: There’s been lots of action in the brackish water, but not necessarily the kind everyone wants.

For much of the week there was a scourge of whopper bluefish that joined their smaller brothers. The big ones predominately schooled up on at both St. Augustine and Matanzas Inlet.

Sunday boats lined the jetty, especially at Matanzas, and killed big blues. Action was non-stop. Steve Carregal says he and his wife caught 13, all 30-34 inches in two hours.

Best story of the week comes from Avid Angler. The boys there weighed an 18-pound, 2-ounce bluefish. They asked what it hit. The answer was a 5-pound bluefish on another rod next to the boat.

The big school likely went north, but every year a gang of the big thugs takes up residence on the south jetties on Conch Island and stays for up to two weeks. This is the time that happens.

Otherwise, the fishing consisted of a few slot reds for most of the boats, lots of jack crevalle, some 18-inch black drum, an occasional pompano and very few flounder.


The Atlantic: Surf fishing was, and is, a good bet. The water is a little roiled up, but the whiting — unlike pompano — don’t mind that much. Word is so many cars were lined up along A1A because of the closure of the Vilano ramps to traffic, that cops were giving tickets to the North Beach angler fishing the surf. But the fish are south of the inlet as well. Thursday morning, one buddy I called had six pompano and six whiting on Crescent Beach before 10:30 on the low water.

The cobia migration is a real big deal around here. But they’re here then gone in a matter of a couple weeks. You can always tell when that occurs because you’ll hear absolutely nothing about it.

And it’s happening. The cobia are on the beach along with rays.

The pogy pods are schooling up there as well.

Further off, some of the charter captains are slaughtering yellowmouth trout on the closer reefs and wrecks, and picking up some vermillion snapper and a few legal black sea bass.

The bluewater guys are hitting double-digit blackfin tuna. Some wahoo were caught, but not in good numbers. The word is they’re 100 feet of water, which sound a little off. A few dolphin up to 30 pounds were caught out in 600 feet of water, and that sounds about right.

The Coast Guard has put down a new sea buoy off the inlet. It is supposed to be 10.72 nautical miles off the inlet sea buoy at 61.9 degrees — or 30.000 N 81.080 W (30°0’0” N 81°4’48” W).

That’s real good news, especially for the smaller boats looking for specific sea conditions before going out the inlet and taking a pounding.


The weather: Northerly winds will blow Saturday at 10-15 knots, with 3-foot seas. Sunday they’ll swing around from the east at 5-10 knots with seas forecast at 2-3 feet.