6 years ago

A surfer weekend, but not a fisherman

***A surfer weekend, but not a fisherman ***



It been that kind of week where nothing is new. Fishing is not worse, and it not any better. But it good.

The bass bedding is trailing off, though there still a few beds north of Green Cove Springs. But anglers are doing well on what the pros call “post-spawn fish, which generally translates into “hungry fish  after a few weeks of putting feeding behind breeding on their to do lists.

The panfish bite should really catch fire this week. The normal time for their spawn is May, but things are happening early. Bluegill are concentrating in the lily pads in anticipation of their rite of procreation. Shellcracker are staging up on top of shell bars, as their name infers.

Fishing the shell and sand bars would be a real good bet right now, because the smaller, pan-sized catfish and redbellies are also comfortable on the same type of clean bottom with moving water and drop-offs. Big worms would be the very best bait, because all three species like them just fine. Some very big catfish are biting in the river right now. One commercial catfish guy swapped out larger hooks to catch them last week and smoked the channel cats from five to 15 pounds. But he ended up just about giving the fish away, because there no real interest in the big ones in the fish houses. That a shame. Size does diminish the quality of the meat on catfish, but not very much. The trick with the big catfish is to filet off the sides, but do a poor job of it. If you can leave a quarter-inch of meat on the skin, that removes the mucous-like layer that gives the meat the off-taste. Remove all the bloodlines from the filets, and just chunk the good stuff up for the fryer. A few hours of marinating in buttermilk and hot sauce does the rest. And the rest is delicious.

The black mullet are beginning to show up in the river, as evidenced by the cane pole crew on the Shands Bridge. They can benefit from a milk bath as well.


The redfish bite remains the best thing going, and these are generally nice fish, slot-sized and barely below or grossly above. Remember that the slot is 18 to 27 inches and, at least for now, you can keep two fish each.

Since were on a culinary course already, here a tip for the reds. I like them any way you can cook them, but there something about what called “redfish on the half-shell that really makes them stand out. Just filet off the sides leaving the rib cage, and dont skin the fish. Rub the cut side of the “slab with blackening or your favorite seasoning after rubbing it down with oil. Grill it cut-side-down to get grill marks and to make it a little crusty, then flip it scale-side-down and shut the top of the grill. Depending upon the thickness of the slab and the heat of the grill, it should cook about 15 or 20 minutes, give or take. Then plop the slab on a plate and dig in. The fat of the skin keeps the fish moist and the little bit of smoke makes it extra-tasty. Youll never go back.

Flounder fishing is picking up very well. Most of the fish remain smallish, but several were weighed this week pushing 4 pounds. The trout bite is good, as is the black drum bite. Sheepshead are a good bet if you can acquire fiddler crabs for bait. Get anywhere near the inlet, and youll catch bluefish, ladyfish (big ones) and jack crevalle ‘til your arm falls off. While a ladyfish is admittedly nasty to bring into your boat, they do make a dynamite cut bait for redfish  and jacks and bluefish.


Surf fishing, if the weather permits, is just about as good as it gets. But the “if has been, and will be, a big one. The surf temperature is right at 68 degrees, which is exactly what pompano like. The key to finding them is locating cleaner water. Just because it dirty on one side of the inlet doesnt necessarily mean it the same on the opposite side. Runouts and troughs are important to locate, but not always necessary. Most important  just when all those stars align for you, be prepared to toss it all away. If theyre not there, or not biting there, move. Apparently nobody has told them what theyre supposed to do, or when.

There have been just a few reports of cobia this week, but theyre more rumor than anything. Generally they do not seem to be off the beaches, though the pogie pods and big rays are. The weather been so blustery, no one really gotten out to check the wrecks and reefs out around 100 feet  and certainly wont be out there for the next few days.

In the deep water, the dolphin bite is picking up very well. Some of the charter boats were catching up to 20 dolphin averaging 15 pounds, with some pushing 30. The wahoo bite is slowing down, with two or three being reported by the dolphin trollers. The fish have been found from 180 feet out to 300 feet. The blackfin tuna are concentrating out past that.

Bottom fishing for the regular triggerfish, beeliners, sea bass and porgies is good. Grouper are rare, as are the legal species of snapper.


It looks like a better weekend for wishing you were fishing than doing it. The winds will blow from the northeast at 20-25 knots. Seas are expected to be 6-8 feet. Even the St. Johns and ICW should be white-capped by the winds. Sneak up in a little creek if you can. At least the surfers ought to be happy.


The Ancient City Game Fish Association will meet Tuesday at the St. Augustine Shrine Club on Moultrie Creek, 250 Brainard St. Social hour begins at 6 p.m., followed by light food at 6:30 p.m. The program will be on offshore trolling techniques and tips. Junior Anglers will have “Wii night. Parents and kids are asked to bring their favorite multi-player game. For the alleged grown ups, awards for the “Spring Kick Off tournament will be handed out.

**Jim Sutton** provides a weekly fishing report for The Record.

Reach him at [email protected]

**CONTRIBUTED PHOTO;** From left, Will Pecora, ‘Grandpa Carl Pecora and John Sarr, with some nice North River reds, caught last week.

Listing ID: 19015

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