The St. Johns River and area lakes
Shrimping is getting all the attention. This is the best season we’ve had in years. While the shrimp aren’t quite yet the up to size, the numbers are huge.
The larger shrimp remain down around Welaka. But the shrimp from Mayport south past Palatka are solid mediums. The ones farther south are approaching large — which are averaging, maybe, 25-count to the pound.
You can save yourself a lot of time and save the shrimp a worthless death by throwing nets with larger mesh — maybe a half-inch — to cull out the undersized skippers before shaking them out on the deck to bake in the sun. It’s easier on the back as well.
The mullet are going crazy as well. A couple of guides baited up a few spots in the river. It didn’t take long. One had 89, the other around 50. If you’ve never had a three-pound mullet on a cane pole, there’s few fish that size that can pull that hard.
I’m not certain what you’d do with 89 mullet, but they’re there. Later next month or a little later, we’ll see the epic migration of both mullet and shrimp north to Mayport and the Atlantic. They stage up in vast numbers. And they run together.
Otherwise, the St. Johns from Palatka north is full of saltwater fish — ladyfish, small mangrove snapper, hybrid stripers, drum, croaker, slot redfish and some tarpon and flounder. The key is fishing these local shrimp on small corks or free-lined around docks and bulkheads.
The panfish bite picked up, probably because of the full moon.
Gator season opened this week. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission expects to see 10,000 applications to hunt the 6,000-gator quota for this year.
The Intracoastal Waterway
The inlets have been the staging area for some nice catches of trout, flounder and that unexpected run of snook. Some of the captains are also targeting snook down around Pellicer Creek.
The bite in the inlet is best with high water at sunrise, tossing topwater baits. The guides have followed the tide inside as it falls, pushing finger mullet out of the spartina grass shallows and into the ICW itself. Small flounder are still being caught. Bluefish have moved in with ladyfish and some jacks.
The mangrove snapper have been hungry, but oddly small-ish so far this summer.
Out in the deep water, it has all been bottom fishing with no surprises. Mangrove and mutton snapper are out deeper. Vermillion snapper, porgies and triggerfish are a little shallower. Cobia were scarce out there and there were no reports of African pompano.
The local bottom, Nine- and Four-mile, are covered up with kingfish. And the sharks that were eating most all of them off the lines have scattered some. But you’ll still be lucky to bring more than half the kings you hook to the boat without a shark mangling it or eating it whole.
Captain Guy Spear reported hooking six cobia, five of which he described as the size of slot reds. One was barely legal. And the shorts were pretty much taken care of by the sharks.
Pogies had disappeared until yesterday when there were reports of them off the north bar of the St. Augustine Inlet.
Surf fishing has been picking up. The water has been clearing and baitfish are moving in. There were acres of glass minnows around the county pier. If they stay, the predators will find them by today and there could be a hot bite there. One of the pier regulars said tarpon did show up, but were so gorged on the baitfish,they were gulping only air when they surfaced, not glass minnows.
It’ll be southerly winds Saturday and Sunday at 10 to 15 knots and seas 2 to 3 feet.
The 13th Annual Anglers for a Cure Inshore Slam Tournament kicks off Sept. 27 with a captain’s meeting at the Vilano Boat Ramp. Fishing is the 28th. The 29th is a rain day. This is a three-fish (trout, redfish, flounder) tournament. There is a junior angler event: also a sheepshead and kayak competition. To register go to anglersforacure.org.
Jim Sutton writes a weekly fishing column for The Record. You can contact him with reports or photos at email@example.com.