By David Lifka
With another mild winter behind us, the possibilities of another early and productive fishing season seems to be already taking place. Add in the shortage of any significant rainfall here or to the south, and we’ve got a situation where our area of the St. Johns River is looking very much like areas on the other side of downtown Jacksonville.
With water temperatures and salinity both being higher than normal, many of our expected summertime fishing arrivals are already here, running ahead of schedule. Weakfish and croaker numbers are strong. Flounder are showing around bridges and pilings along with a few reds here and there. Good numbers of shrimp have made their presence known for much of the winter and spring.
In years past, when similar conditions existed, additional saltwater species found their way to our area of the St. Johns River, such as whiting and mangrove snapper. Having a snook stamp with your saltwater license might be a good idea, as reports of snook catches in the downtown and Ortega areas of the river occurred regularly.
Shrimping seasons are nearly impossible to predict, but having shrimp already inhabiting our end of the river is good sign. At the very least their presence increases the number of fish that feed on them, which happens to be the same fish most of us fish for. Shrimping season is closed during April and May, but hopefully the shrimp will hang on for an early start to shrimping in June or July.
With spring already here, water temperature is no longer a problem. Living in the brackish area of the St. Johns River, salinity levels contribute greatly to how our summer fishing is going to be. Too much rain to the south could be like a giant flush of freshwater pushing the proper brackish mix to the north. Not enough rain can have the opposite effect, moving fish and shrimp further to the south of us.
What this year’s weather might have in store for us still remains to be seen. Every year we watch, wait, and hope for the perfect conditions so that we can enjoy our fishing and shrimping to the maximum. But like the old saying says, there is no time like the present, and right now that holds true. The river is ready to go for what looks like to be the start of a pretty good year.
Fishing Report: Croaker and weakfish moving into their normal spots. Buckman Bridge (near the channel), markers 10,18,19, any holes, all other markers are good places to try. Local dead shrimp or cut croaker for bait.
Whether you catch one, some, or none, the family time you spend fishing will last a lifetime.