Look to catfish for max bite
**THE ST. JOHnS RIvER anD aREa lakES**
While none of the reports from freshwater were bad this week, none were great either. You can catch your supper, but you probably wont be feeding the church covered dish this Sunday.
The big river is both roiled up and low. Most folks who dont frequent the St. Johns dont realize how much the wind can affect the water levels on the St. Johns and the lakes and creeks that attach themselves to it.
Weve had a week of uncommonly hard southerly winds. These actually blow water out of the river: Remember, it flows north. And water levels remain as much as a foot or more lower than a week ago. This changes so much for the fish that feed on tides and spawn on water levels and water temperatures.
In addition to the lower tides, the big winds stirred the water up, and it murkier, if not muddier, this week.
But the catfish, which pay little attention to most of these cosmic distractions, are biting hard.
That not getting much attention because most of the freshwater anglers are chasing bass (which have moved off their beds), bluegills (which have been pushed out of much of the shoreline vegetation and speckled perch (which continue to stay deep, avoiding the extra-shallow vegetation.
The few anglers who have figured out the hybrid/stripers, are catching them on structure, but the schools of them normally hitting bait on the surface, and being tipped off by the birds, are staying deep, too.
**THE InTRaCOaSTal WaTERWay**
There have been plenty of redfish caught in the ICW this week, but few measured out to the 18- to 27-inch slot.
Sheepshead are still biting, and bait shops are keeping up with the demand for fiddler crabs.
This is normally a time when you cant count on putting flounder on ice, but most of the guides found them in unexpected numbers. Most reported that they found the flatties back up in the creeks on oyster bars ? and most were those 14-inch fish.
Black drum are getting thicker, literally. They put on winter fat this time of year, even though, it seems, it not like winter at all. Water temperatures are staying in the high 60s.
Reports of speckled seatrout were scarce this week and it no wonder with the big fluctuations in water temperature over the past week.
So basically, it looks like a week to hunt fish in order to catch fish.
When boats could get out to deep water, they caught good numbers of blackfin tuna and a couple of wahoo as a bonus. What did show this week out past the ledge were kingfish, and lots of them. Whether theyre worth the gas bill out there is up to you.
Bottom fishing is predictable. The redeye bite is about the only thing you can count on other than the hordes of red snapper covering up most of the bottom spots and making it nearly impossible to fish them for any other species.
The black sea bass bite has been really poor this winter. Captain Robert Johnson and I were talking. He believes the snapper are eating them up.
And it makes sense, especially if you talk to the divers who actually see the masses of snapper competing on these bottom spots for a meal.
The cobia bite is red-hot once again. There were a couple reports of them being back in on the local reefs and wrecks. But most of the action has been out around 100 feet of water.
Surf fishing has been poor due to the big seas and southeast winds which always mess the water up.
West winds will blow at 15-20 knots all weekend, with seas forecast at 2-3 feet.
*Jim Sutton writes a weekly fishing forecast. Send reports and photos to [email protected].*
*.St. Augustine Christiane Williams with a chubby ICW black drum. The drum bite is improving, along with the size of the fish. Shrimp work fine, but clams are hard to beat in enticing them.*