By Captain David Lifka
We are reaching the favorite time of the year for many area fishermen who fish the St. Johns River. Starting about now and easily running into early fall, we can expect all sorts or saltwater fish to move into our area of the river. One of the main reasons we can expect this increased fishing activity is that this is also the same time of year that shrimp make their annual run.
Often it is a difficult decision whether to target the shrimp first or the fish first when heading out in the morning. Generally, if the shrimp are there in good numbers, you might as well load up and get them on ice. On the other hand, if shrimping is slow, don’t waste too much time waiting for them to show. Get a few dozen in the bait well and head to your favorite fishing spot. Whether fished on the bottom, hung on a float rig, or worked with a jig head, this is the time of year everything swimming in the river is feeding on shrimp. Anything can end up at the end of your line.
Remember shrimp are usually tidal and likely to show up in their largest numbers at a certain tidal stage. When shrimping, take note of the tide when their numbers are at their greatest. Chances are they will be at their peak when shrimping the same tide in future days.
Mandarin Point, Doctors Lake, Green Cove Springs and Shands Bridge have been the most productive shrimping areas in the past few years; however, don’t be afraid to stop anywhere in the river and do a few test throws with your cast net. Often a new spot is discovered by doing this and you might just have it all to yourself.
When daytime shrimping in the St. Johns, baiting an area is not needed; however you will need to ensure that your cast net has at least an extra 25 feet of rope so the net can reach the river bottom when currents are strong. Webbed nets, which open like a parachute, are highly recommended to increase your catch. They can be found online or at local bait and tackle stores.
Fishing Report: Weakfish and croaker are sure bets. Speckled trout, reds, drum, and flounder all have been part of the mix from Buckman to Green Cove. Expect shrimping to improve as the summer progresses.
Whether you catch one, some or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.