**The St. Johns River and area lakes:**
Most of the folks trying to find a shady spot in a creek are able to ice down enough panfish for a fair-sized fish fry. But unless youve got a couple of recent, secret spots in mind, it been hit-and-miss. Youll not likely miss altogether, but youll probably hit five or six spots before you find “the hole. It always something like that, but the effect is more pronounced in the summer heat.
It mainly bluegill and redbellies right now, though there still a good shellcracker bite on Lake George.
There werent any reports on catfish this week, but that more likely due to a lack of anglers targeting them than a lack of the fish themselves. This is always a good time to catch catfish, especially the specially-tasty buttercats.
Bass fishing is predictably slow, unless youre able to catch a few fresh river shrimp for bait. The bass are hard-wired to eat live shrimp right now, and interested in little else.
Mullet are still running for those netting them off the Shands Bridge.
There still a pretty good bite of hybrid stripers down around the Croaker Hole south of Welaka and the spring runs on the west side of Lake George.
**The Intracoastal Waterway:**
The water temperature is pushing 90 degreess, even around the inlet. It higher the farther you move north or south. Anglers are reporting better catches of flounder, but the fish are generally smaller than they have been.
Slot reds are in the deeper creeks with faster-running water, or on the outside in the ICW along the spartina grass banks ? especially where oyster bars give some cover and force currents to cut the bottom a little deeper.
A real strategy right now is to work the trolling motor and a float rig with a live shrimp along these bars and edges. The payoff is that your bait stays exactly in the strike zone ? just off the bank ? rather than being pulled back to the boat for another cast.
One of the best bites going is the mangrove snapper. These have to be 12 inches or more to keep, but theyre feisty and fat and a dream on the table.
The big reds, jacks and tarpon are busting up bait in the inlet at St. Augustine: less so down at Matanzas, though I did witness a 40-pound tarpon chasing bait 10 feet off the bank at the Matanzas Inlet Restaurant over the weekend, while sipping a sparkling water and enjoying a refreshing tabouli and micro-green salad …
The calm, clear days have allowed plenty of opportunity for anglers to get out of the inlet. The king-fish bite remains very strong out around Nine-Mile bottom. But it is the beach fishing that has really picked up the past few days. Captain Dennis Goldstein had several hits Tuesday, but kept three fish of 34, 28 and 28 pounds. Several fish were caught north of the inlet around the Serenata club in the 20-40 pound range. Most the reports are of fish in 25 feet of water, so dont run past them. Out on the inside reefs, the kings are more plentiful, but much smaller. Bonito, barracuda, big jacks and hungry sharks are shadowing them.
A surprising number of cobia were caught in the same area, but theyre generally on the small side. A couple of sailfish were jumped as well.
Out farther, the charter boats have fished every day. Captain Robert Johnson says it a little weird out there. There a hard current, but he says on some of his good numbers, there nothing but grunts, meaning cold water. But others are holding fish. At any rate, his boats have been catching the normal limits of beeliners, some mangrove snapper and porgies. He did catch a 30-pound gag on the bottom and a 30-pound blackfin on a drift line earlier in the week.
Surf fishing has picked up a little this week, but the water still warm enough to guarantee baby sharks, rays and other trash fish. And the whiting caught have been generally small.
Expect southwest winds at 10 to 15 mph and seas at 2 to 3 feet.
***Jim Sutton provides a weekly fishing report for The Record.***
**Contact him at** [email protected].
**CONTRIBUTED PHOTO ;** Gage Wright, from Julington Creek, stands with a pretty ICW redfish caught recently with Captain Rob Bennett of Coastal Fish Charters