By Captain David Lifka
Every spring, summer, and fall, the majority of our area fishing depends greatly on the weather. Neighborhood lakes and ponds require a certain amount of rainfall to help maintain healthy water levels. Area creeks and tributaries also need a certain amount of yearly rainfall to help ward off saltwater intrusion that helps them remain as the freshwater fishery that they are. And then there is the St. Johns River. For us, it’s our favorite area fishing grounds, but in reality, it serves as a 310-mile long drain for much of the central and upper eastern half of the state of Florida.
The 2,000 square mile St. Johns River Basin is similar to that of the Florida Everglades, being made up of low marshy wetlands that extend as far south as Indian River and Okeechobee counties. With an approximate drop in elevation of just 30 feet from its beginning to where it empties into the Atlantic at Mayport, the slow moving river drains at speeds of less than a half mile per hour. Any rainfall within miles of its banks or basin is all destined to flow through our area fishery on its way to the ocean. Unfortunately for us, this excessive flow of freshwater has a direct effect on the salinity of the river water, which usually provides us the brackish water needed.
This year’s overabundance of above normal rainfall throughout much of the state has helped maintain a steady drain of freshwater into the river, pushing back our normally brackish water fishing grounds. With the brackish lines being pushed back as far north as downtown Jacksonville, we have pretty much been left with a freshwater river for most of our area fishing.
In years past it is usually some sort of a tropical system that brings on a heavy flush of the river. It disrupts fishing for a while, but then conditions return to normal. This year, because of the continuous onslaught of above normal rainfall, any type of recovery that we may have expected has been nonexistent. Of course this year is not over yet, as we easily have well into September for conditions to change and a turnaround to take place. Who knows? Maybe after all this rain we can still be in for a fabulous autumn of fishing. It would certainly be nice.
Fishing Report: Very good freshwater bream and catfish bite. Worms for the bream, try chicken livers for the cats. Sporadic shrimping. Yellowmouth trout closer to downtown and beyond.
Whether you catch one, some, or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.
We now include a Catch of the Month photo with Capt. David’s Fishing Report each month. Please email a photo of yourself or your child with the fish caught to email@example.com. Be sure to include the name of the person(s) in the photo, the name of the person who took the photo, the type of fish and date and location of the catch. We will select a photo each month for publication.
Photo courtesy Mark Miller
This month’s Catch of the Month photo is of six year old Collins, who caught this shellcracker on a warm July afternoon in Julington Creek Plantation near the golf course.