By Captain David Lifka
Earlier this summer, our area of the St. Johns River was looking an awful lot like the Intracoastal Waterway. With salinities very high from lack of winter rain, larger than normal numbers of saltwater species of fish were already finding their way up the river to some of our favorite fishing spots. It appeared we were in for a superb year of fishing for saltwater species until June’s record breaking rainfall quickly reversed that trend.
Almost always you will find that the river’s water north of downtown Jacksonville will be predominantly saltwater. As a matter of fact, the Main Street Bridge in downtown Jax is officially the freshwater/saltwater line for the river. From Downtown south to the Shands Bridge in Green Cove Springs, brackish water becomes the dominant mix. This salt and freshwater combination makes for a unique fishing opportunity for all of us who live in this area, as both saltwater and freshwater species of fish can inhabit our portion of the river year round. As you continue south from the Shands Bridge, salinity levels continue to decline and freshwater becomes more prevalent. At anytime rain, or lack of, can easily affect these often fluctuating boundaries by several miles or more.
How this year’s season plays out is still to be determined. One scenario could be that our area of the river just isn’t brackish enough to attract the shrimp or fish we usually expect and they end up north of town. The other scenario, and the most likely, is that the river was due a good flushing, and that the new salinity levels will create more favorable conditions for the remainder of our fishing and shrimping season.
Even when conditions seem perfect, predicting late summer fishing and shrimping is often a coin toss. Rainfall amounts, timing of the rainfall, and even where the rainfall occurs along the St. Johns will have a direct effect on our area waters. Hopefully the this year’s effect will consist of a perfect balance of salt and freshwater, making our area of the river the place to be.
Fishing Report: Shrimp! Shrimp! Shrimp! Croakers are getting bigger and more plentiful. Dead shrimp or live worms on an 18” leader with a 1/0 worm hook and 1 oz. sinker will get them. Latest Florida Fishing Regulations for 2017 are now available. Be sure to check them out.
Whether you catch one, some, or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.