***Sea bass season will stay open***
**Last week,** I mentioned that Id heard that black sea bass were going to close this week, but couldnt get confirmation by deadline. Turns out that the opposite is true. NOAA has determined that the allocation of sea bass was not reached in the recreational fishery the past three years (theyre just now telling us?) thus, they will keep the season open the entire year. Bag and size limits remain the same ? five fish per person with a 13-inch minimum. You might be tempted to think, “What a nice thing NOAA has done for us. Dont. The Atlantic stock of sea bass is considerably stronger than the Gulf stock, yet on our left coast, under the different rules of the Gulf Marine Fisheries Commission rather that our Atlantic group, the size limit is 10 inches, and the bag limit? One hundred pounds per person. Theyre starving us here and encouraging environmental gluttony over there. NOAA is as screwed up as ever.
**THE ST. JOHNS RIVER AND AREA LAKES:** When it comes to winning a raffle for a new boat or bedding speckled perch, for the angler, hope does spring eternal. So the legions of cane-polers praying for a speck spawn this year are hoping that the last botanically-possible, but immensly-improbable flip of the reproductive switch will occur on the April new moon … tonight.
Well let you know.
But others of the broad-based group called panfish are biting all over the river lakes. Bluegill are the main action. But warmouth are biting in Lake Lochloosa, shell-cracker in Lake George and redbellies on the sandbars in the St. Johns and its creeks.
The redbellies might be an extra-good bet, because the catfish bite is about as good as it gets each spring. And the catfish inhabit the same bottom as the redbellies. In other words, where you catch one, youll catch the other. A 25-pound channel cat was weighed at Georgia Boy Fish Camp this week, along with several more big ones. Obviously the tackle for big cats wont work for little redbellies ? or vice-versa.
But if youre targeting the tasty fingerling-style catfish, a small hook and slip weight just heavy enough to hold bottom will get them all.
Bass continue to spawn all over the river, though the peak has passed. But it will continue off and on for another month.
There were a few reports of small croakers and yellowmouth trout in the channel up around the Shands Bridge in Green Cove Springs.
**THE INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY:** It been very good all week for just about all species and just about everywhere, from Matanzas Inlet to Palm Valley. The water temperatures have dropped again, down into the high 60s. So with warming water the rest of the week, if anything, it should get better. The shrimp truck from the West Coast broke down, and it been days since any of the local shops have had live shrimp. Word was that a shipment was due Wednesday afternoon, but a phone call will save you a drive.
I did find out one interesting thing. If the local shops are out of shrimp, the Palm Valley Fish Camp may not be, and usually isnt. That because its supplier is from Georgia, not Steinhatchee. But the farthest south he delivers is the Palm Valley/C.R. 210 corridor ? might be worth remembering.
Redfish are the main attraction. The bite is good everywhere that wet. There are plenty of finger mullet still in the ICW.
Everything else has been like a side bet, with fair numbers of black drum, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, flounder and seatrout ? but none in great number (unless you find that big school of ladyfish working south of the inlet Wednesday).
Oh yeah, if your fish near the inlet, youre likely to catch some nice pompano as well. Most all the guides fishing that area have been doing it.
**THE ATLANTIC:** Speaking of the pompano, when the surf has been fishable, which it was Tuesday even, Yankees were catching pompano in the surf, and the fish are from one end of the county to the other. There a weekly whiting contest and fish fry up in Jacksonville Beach every Tuesday, and the word is that most of the 30-plus folks fishing it had more pompano in their coolers than whiting. The pompano didnt count in the tournament, but neither did the anglers have to donate them for the fish fry. It a Yin and Yang thing ? the fusion of two cosmic forces culminating in two excellent meals, fried whiting at the event and grilled pompano at home.
There were no reports over the past few days of the fishing on the local wrecks and reefs, and there likely wont be for the next few days.
Prior to the blow, the reports of cobia ranged from the Nine-Mile area to the wrecks out in 100 feet of water. There were several big rays seen in off the beach down around Matanzas Inlet, but they had no cobia following.
If you can get out this weekend (big if), the dolphin bite out on the ledge is improving. A couple of 40-pounders were reported early in the week. The wahoo are scarcer and smaller. The blackfin tuna are still around.
**THE WEATHER:** The weekend weather outlook is poor, at least if youre heading offshore. North winds Saturday will blow at 15-20 knots pushing seas to 6 feet. Sunday it more northeast with winds diminishging to 10-15 knot. But the big seas and a ground swell will still be around.
**Jim Sutton** provides a weekly fishing report for The Record. Reach him at [email protected]