Jim Sutton's Fishing Report: Tough week on the ICW

The St Johns River and area lakes: There may be no better time to fish the St. Johns River than the next few weeks.


The bass bedding has exploded from Lake George up to Jacksonville. One guide caught an 8-pound, a 10-pound, 4-ounce and a 10-pound, 8-ounce fish Wednesday.

He took the time, and I realize I should too, to commend the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. While it’s rare for guides to keep and kill bedding fish, it was not for decades illegal for “meat fishermen” to do it with abandon.

Last year the FWC instituted a new largemouth bass regulation that put and end to an array of different rules based on a zone system, and — finally — put some protection in place for these large female breeders. These big girls produce between 2,000 and 7,000 eggs per pound of body weight.

The new law is in place statewide and sets a five-limit largemouth bass bag, which can include only one fish in excess of 16 inches. The guide, Adam Delaney, said that rule has saved “hundreds” of spawning females just this year on Lake George — and untold numbers of their progeny, which might otherwise have been taken out of the ecosystem.

Imagine what just that group of three bass — 28 pounds — will produce for the future.

Hopping off the soapbox, the bass are only one species lit up right now. The yellowmouth trout bite, also known as weakfish, is going gangbusters up around Green Cove Springs. Forty fish a morning is nothing special. They’re concentrating in the channels around markers 18 and 19. A few smallish croakers are being caught with them.

The bluegill and catfish bite is crazy too. The best story of the week is of a guide who took a lady angler out in the river just south of Palatka, where he halved a mullet he’d netted. She put a 23-pound catfish and an 11-pound redfish in the boat with the two baits.

The same guide took two customers out for panfish and brought in 105. If these numbers sound excessive, the biologists know what they’re doing here. So a 50-fish limit of bream works. Most folks don’t know that in our area, there is actually no limit on weakfish in either size or numbers.

This bite will continue to improve until it likely peaks for the year around the April 11 full moon. It’s almost spooky. By the way that moon, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, is also called the Pink moon and the Fish moon. Not certain about the former, but agree with the latter.

Speckled perch seem to be about the only species not ganging up for the dance of procreation.


The Intracoastal Waterway: The majority of the guides I spoke with this week tell a tale of angling woe. For some reason the fishing has been pretty much awful all week. Yes, the water is dirty, but that doesn’t explain it.

About the only reports of fish have been on bluefish and jacks — which some guides could not find or entice to bite.

It could change by the weekend, but we’ll have to see.


The Atlantic: The deep-water anglers found trolling a little slow this week, compared to last, when the winning pair of wahoo in the Conch House shootout weighed just shy of 153 pounds.

Bottom fishing out on the ledge was OK, but nothing like it should be. The local reefs and wrecks provided anglers with yellowmouth trout, mostly small black sea bass, some bluefish and vermillion snapper. Cobia were not around.


The weather: Sounds kinda bass-ackwards but the weatherman says northwest winds will blow Saturday at 10-15 knots with 2-3 foot seas — then swing around at 10-15 knots from the southeast Sunday with 2-4 foot seas.


Calendar: For those of you interested in the life and lore of that Matanzas River, will want to attend the debut of a new multi-media oral history project that documents life along the Matanzas River. The event is at 6 p.m. April 4 at the River House, 179 Marine Street downtown.

Crescent Beach’s own Anna Hamilton is the project director for “Matanzas Voices.” You’ll be familiar with most of these voices if you’ve been around a while. The program is free and open to the public. We have it on good information that the program is an excellent one. But it’s from her dad, Pat Hamilton, who may be on the partial side. Seriously, it promises to be a great program.

Jim Sutton provides a weekly fishing report for The Record. Reach him at jim.sutton@staugustine.com.