I told you last week I’d get the picture of that 13-pound tripletail caught off a Palm Valley dock, and I got it. But it’s been preempted by another, more tantalizing fish. Here’s the tale of the mystery fish that was much more.
A local crew, consisting of Jordan John, angler Shane Leitmeier, Ben Williams and Sean Gronquist were bottom fishing a couple weeks ago out on the ledge when the fish hit a hunk of cut squid. The boys didn’t measure it or weigh it, though they did think about eating it (I’ve seem then eat some frightful stuff). That, more than likely, would have disappointed their respective moms, because it is deadly poisonous.
The fish was described as around 20-plus pounds and nearly 3 feet in length. They sent me the photo Thursday. I was stumped, so I called Dr. Quint White who runs the Marine Sciences at Jacksonville University.
Quint and I have tracked down some pretty weird marine denizens over the years, but this time he was baffled, too. He sent the photo to biologist Russ Brodie, who identified it as either an oceanic puffer or a smooth puffer. He did not get a good enough look at the caudal fin to be sure. But his money was on the oceanic puffer.
For kicks, I wondered if there was a category for either of these species in the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) record books, and found out.
Then I felt bad … for the boys. Either way, they had tossed a world record fish over the transom. The all-tackle record for the oceanic puffer is 7 pounds even. The smooth puffer record is 11 pounds, 7 ounces. Both records were set off New Jersey.
There’s no doubt that fish is at least twice as big as either, judging by his relation to the cockpit. Generally the average for these fish may be two pounds.
The fish is the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world. Its Tetrodotoxin is 1,200 times more deadly that cyanide. Talk about your “last supper,” huh?
The St. Johns River and area lakes The bass fishing on Lake George was excellent this week. The bass are fanning beds all over the big lake. There’s also a good bluegill bite down there.
The striper bite woke up this week. Several anglers reported catching them under bait pods by following the birds. There was also a bite of much larger stripers being caught by those fishing shrimp under the bridge in Green Cove Springs. Some were drifting back live shiners, as well, and getting some of the 5-plus-pounders.
The speckled perch bite remains very scattered and sketchy. There are reports of guys catching them in pads, and they were already roed-out. Farther north, they’re catching them in the pads, too, but the majority was males. It’s all cattywampus out there.
The bluegill bite is off the charts and there are few reports of shellcracker bedding now. The weather has been so weird this winter, the only thing you can count on in terms of fish behavior is you can’t count on it.
The Intracoastal Waterway
It’s been steady, but generally slow most all week. The sheepshead bite is the lone exception. This is the time of year to catch the biggest sheepshead and the hungriest ones – and a lot of folks are doing just that.
The redfish bite is slow, but the fish have, for the most part, been slot sized. I don’t have a clue where all those little rat reds have gone, but they’re not nearly as pesky as the past few weeks.
On the pest subject, some good news is that the hordes of bluefish are thinning out, and that’s likely because of the 70-degree water at the inlet and ICW. They don’t much like it that hot.
The trout bite is slow, and the flounder bite is slower still. Black drum are saving some trips, but even these have been predominately undersized.
The big news that nobody’s talking about is the cobia bite out in 100 feet of water. That means they’re there.
This is, again, a weather thing. Cobia should have gone south to warmer climes six weeks ago. But they don’t have to, because the water temperatures remain so warm here.
You’ll also hear of pompano being caught in the surf again, and that’s the same story. They should be wintering at Cape Canaveral and south by now. But they’re finding the surf temperatures to their liking here – again. Some of the better pompano anglers are convinced that this round of fish had headed back north from New Smyrna. There’s no way to prove it, one way or the other. But the renewed presence of pompano is a welcome sight.
Fifty miles east, anglers are catching lots of blackfin tuna still. There are a few wahoo being caught, but the word is that that ugly green water is out on the ledge and east, gumming up the works. The kingfish bite is still good, because they’re not so turned off by ick water.
Looks bad all weekend, at least offshore. Look for northeast winds at 10-15 knots and 4-6–foot seas Saturday. It’s crappier (more crappy?) Sunday.
The Ancient City Game Fish Association hosts its 7th Annual Free Kids Fishing Clinic on Saturday at St. Augustine Marina on Vilano Beach. This is for kids 12 and under. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. There’s a fishing and safety clinic at 8 a.m. First 150 kids receive a free fishing goodie bag. Awards and raffle are at 11:30 and there’s a free McDonalds lunch to end the morning.
Contact Jim Sutton at email@example.com.