7 years ago

There mahi madness on the ledge

There mahi madness on the ledge

**JIM SUTTON**

**THE ST. JOHNS RIVER AND AREA LAKES**

While May is usually the hottest month for pan-fish bedding, the fish have been hyperactive since early spring, and most of the better freshwater anglers are betting the big spawn will happen now. The full moon is Friday, so the reproductive frenzy should be a “go from today through early next week. Bedding will continue after that, but less frenetically.

Therefore, this is a perfect weekend to head to the river or your favorite lake and look for signs of bedding activity. Some of the species will fan out 24-inch circles in the open water where theyre easy to see. Talapia are best known for this (and theyll be bedding too). Bluegills and stump-knockers will do their thing more in the lily pads or wooded cover. Shell-crackers and redbellies are in more open spaces.

Old-timers say they can smell the beds really early in the morning when the wind is calm. Beer and cigars, Im told, will mess up your olfactory prowess in this endeavor. But since it generally an early a.m. thing, you really shouldnt be drinking beer or huffing stogies before dawn anyway  8 a.m. is more civilized.

The panfish will be red-hot at any rate. Reports from Lake George and Dunn Creek this week have been of 60 and 80 big bluegills per boat (two anglers). The catfish bite will be excellent, but they kind of take a backseat when the bream spawn is on.

If you find beds, but not lots of them, old-timers used to stomp on a blue crab to crush it and toss it in pieces out toward the beds. Every panfish in the area will be there within minutes. Gut a female garfish and spread the eggs, the water will froth.

The bass bedding is still going strong as well. Water temperatures remain in the mid-70s and bass tend to shut the sexy stuff down when it hits about 80 degrees. As I age Im more inclined to relate.

THE INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY

It been so windy that few boats have braved the ICW, and a lot of charters blew off trips because of the mess out there. But Tuesday, things calmed down and most of the charter captains were catching mixed bags of fish. Some jumbo black drum are being caught under the bridges, especially Vilano. If you stay around the inlet, youll likely stay covered up with bluefish, lady-fish, jacks or the combination of them all. Wednesday morning the pier reported a big school of Spanish Mackerel heading north, so they may take up residence for a couple days in and around the inlet as well.

Sheepshead fishing is good. Flounder fishing is picking up, at least in the numbers of fish being caught. Redfish are probably the best bite going and a good portion of them are within the slot limits.

The bait shops are having trouble getting live shrimp, but the calmer weather may allow the shrimp boats to get out on the West Coast, and for the aerated trucks to make it here by the weekend.

**THE ATLANTIC**

After five days of real big winds, it finally laid down enough Tuesday for a few of the bigger boats to head offshore. Both the Jodie Lynn and the Endless Summer reported icing down over 60 dolphin (mahi) that day. The fish were generally the school-sized 8- to 12-pounders, along with the 15- to 20-pound gaffers. A few big fish were caught, but the two class sizes dont generally run together. Most of the fish were caught just east of the ledge. But theyll be moving around, so you might want to set the spread in shallower water and troll east so you dont run over them.

There were a very few wahoo caught with the dolphin  few blackfin tuna as well.

A bunch of boats that looked like they were loaded for cobia were stacking up at the Vilano ramp Wednesday morning. Some expect that the rough weather all week has allowed the cobia to run the gauntlet of boats from Canaveral to Daytona, hoping a few survived for us. So, many of the smaller boats will be running the beaches, probably heading south, to look for rays with cobia in tow. Cobia were caught in 100 feet of water Tuesday. The Sea Love reported putting four on ice.

Surf fishing has been awful and excellent, depending upon the time and place. But there are plenty of bluefish, whiting of all sizes and hefty pompano in the water. The big northerly winds and heavy surf have made it tough to hold bait on the bottom, but the northerly stuff does clean up the water, which is important for, especially, the pompano. Surf temperatures are around 68 degrees  just where the pompano like it.

**THE WEATHER**

Looks like a very pretty weekend for a huge change. Variable winds will blow this weekend at 10-15 knots with seas at 2 to 3 feet. Clouds on Saturday should blow away for a sunny Sunday. Both days look nice, and your choices this week are wide open. If it wet, they should be biting there.

**Jim Sutton** provides a weekly fishing report for The Record. Reach him at jim.sutton@staugustine.com

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