**Shrimp are here; striper bite unusually good**
jIm SUTTOn FISHING REPORT
**The St. johns River and area lakes**
Bait shops in the tricounty area cant keep enough taped cast nets on their shelves and that means only one thing: The river shrimp are here in sufficient quantity and size to light a fire in the Crustacean Nation.
For the unwashed, nets are taped around the perimeter of their circumference with lawn chair webbing to help keep them opened on the long ride down from the boat to the bottom ? usually around 20-25 feet.
The shrimp this year are running in mixed sizes, from small to nearly large. Limits are the norm.
From boats, netters are allowed a five-gallon bucket in total. From docks, piers or shore, the limit is five gallons per person.
The weight of that volume will vary depending upon the size of the shrimp, but 30 pounds per bucket for what running now is a pretty good norm. And that a lot of gumbo.
The Green Cove Springs piers are covered up with netters. Surprisingly, the word from the Palatka Municipal Marina is that it not that crazy
Rain has cooled down the river and swollen the lakes. Lake Lochloosa, marina owners say, has gone up eight inches in a week.
Didnt hear this, but when that much rain falls it makes panfish very tough to find because they move so far back into the swamps with the higher water, finding all kinds of new morsels upon which to snack. Just not yours.
Otherwise the best news is that the striper bite in the river is as good as it been in years. These are actually hybrid striper/sunshine bass, but taste pretty good. Most all the fish are between one and two pounds and theyre schooling along sandbars and creek mouths. Rat-L-Trap lures are all you need.
Bluegill, catfish and bass are slow. Redfish and flounder are better. It weird.
**The Intracoastal Waterway**
The flounder bite is picking up fast, due mainly to the run of finger mullet from the ocean into the backwaters. There are plenty of reds and some nice trout if youre the early bird type. Black drum and chubby little mangrove snapper are topping off ice chests.
There were no reports of striking fish. But bottom fishing has been good in deeper water. The current has settled down, but the cold water near the bottom has not. Captain Robert Johnson says it still tough fishing out in 100 feet but gets better at 140 and deeper. Mangrove snapper are the more plentiful of the catches, padded with the occasional gag or scamp grouper, triggerfish, pink porgies, redeyes and the ever-present red snapper.
The kingfish bite on the local reefs and wrecks was good before the blow Saturday through Tuesday. It got much better Wednesday with the nice weather. Most boats were icing down between five and eight kings, along with lots of amberjack, bonito, barracuda and a few scattered cobia.
Surf fishing has been generally bad, with ugly water and ripping tides. But if you want to catch a shark, now would be an excellent time in the surf.
Theyve moved in close, taking advantage of big schools of black mullet all over the beaches. And they do not mind coming into a very few inches of water pushing up the schools.
If you see mullet schools nearby while youre taking a swim, you might want to shorten the exercise. The big blackfins dont generally bite folks on purpose, but like us all, they do make mistakes. Be sure you or your kids arent one.
The tarpon are feeding on the same thing right now and bunches were jumped on the beaches and around the inlet in the past couple of days. I suspect that will become the main thrust of most all the charter guys as the week unfolds.
The weatherman says itll be pretty this weekend (but he said that last week about Sunday). Winds Saturday will be from the southwest at 10 knots, with seas at 2-3 feet. Sunday better, with 5-knot winds and seas at 1-2 feet. Highs wont reach 90, especially offshore. Sounds like a lock.
Jim Sutton provides a weekly fishing report for The Record Reach him at jim.sutton@stau ° gustine.com
**CONtRIBUtEd** Brandon Byrd stands with a couple of nice grouper caught aboard the charter boat Jodie Lynn earlier this week. The current is screaming out there, but if you can drift or otherwise stay near the bottom, the grouper bite is hot ? after weeks of a cold water inversion out on the 21 bottom.