*Fishing looks great, until the weekend*
**JIM SUTTON FISHING REPORT**
Sorry to be late. The sports section needed the room yesterday for all the stories about our local athletes signing with colleges. It was a very good cause.
**The ST. JOhNS RiveR aNd aRea lakeS**
This may have been as good a week of fishing ? top to bottom and freshwater to the Atlantic ? that weve seen in a while.
The speckled perch bite continues to pick up in most of the creeks ? Haw, Six-Mile, Trout and Black creeks in particular. The fish still seem hesitant to spawn, so most of the action has been in deeper water or structure. Bridge pilings are a good bet as well. The ones over Trout and Six-Mile will usually hold fish, but deep.
The bream bite is excellent. Usually December is the month for the biggest bluegill of the year. But, for whatever reason, it happening now.
The catfish bite is great as well. It an interesting mix of predominately “fingerling size and whoppers from 8 to 16 pounds.
The big cats are still fine eating. The trick is not to skin them the old way.
It best to fillet them and skin them by knife rather than pliers. What so important to the taste is to intentionally leave about an eighth of an inch of flesh on the skin. That where all the “funk comes from. A good soaking in either a salt brine or milk goes a long way to taming the big cats too.
The bass are the big story, and the bedding activity is in full swing, but still largely south of Palatka. An 11.5-pounder was caught out of Lake Santa Fe this week. Several over 8 pounds were also caught and released.
**The iNTRacOaSTal WaTeRWay**
At least a little bit of everything seems to be biting. The redfish bite got very good mid-week as water temperature began to climb again. The bulk of the slot fish seemed to be caught north, especially between Guana and Palm Valley. Some big schools of slots are running the east shore up there. If you can locate them, you can catch them till you dont want to anymore.
The guides say theyre really keying on live finger mullet right now, and that there are scads of the baitfish in the water to net.
Sheepshead are still biting hard, but it likely you wont find fiddler crabs for perhaps a week. Theyre apparently buried up on the west coast from the cold.
Black drum are getting bigger and are still on the bridge pilings. There was an uptick of flounder this week, but it still pretty slow and the fish are generally small.
Trout are scattering again with the warming water.
The cobia bite is still on. You can tell because it what nobody is talking about. Weve had a heck of a run this year. Theyve stayed around much longer than normal ? most likely because of the warmer weather. Although we arent seeing them here, the black sea bass bite east of Mayport is rocking.
Rick Ryals told me Thursday that he and Dave Crisp went out for two hours and caught limits. And they were keeping nothing shorter than 15 inches.
The blackfin tuna are still the best bet for action out on the ledge. Boats trolling for them are also picking up a few wahoo, sailfish and dolphin. Oh, and the kingfish are starting to pile up out there again. The bonito, they say, are a pest.
Bottom fishing is suffering. One report this week was that the little cold-water sharks that wreak havoc on the bottom ? are doing just that.
Theyre almost as much of a challenge as getting away from red snapper. Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
But all this information is likely for naught because. Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
**conTriBuTed PHOTO:** *Amber Patteson with a pretty ICW red, caught recently with Captain Rob Bennett.*
Weve got another northeast winds coming in tonight and staying for the weekend. Seas are forecast from 3-5 feet inside and up to 7 feet out past 20 miles. cAlendAr
The monthly meeting of the Ancient City Game Fish Association is Feb. 7 at Bozard Lincoln-Ford at 540 Belz Outlet Blvd., and is a sponsor party to kick off the Kingfish Challenge tournament set July 6-9 at Camachee Cove Yacht Club. Social begins at 6 p.m., with light food and beverages, followed by a brief meeting and a report on the preparation for the Challenge. There will be door prizes and a raffle of an entry into the Kingfish division valued at $325 provided by Bozard Lincoln-Ford. You must be a member and be present in order to win.
*Jim Sutton writes a weekly fishing report. Send reports and photos to [email protected].*