By Captain David Lifka
Every year at this time, white and brown shrimp larvae that have been inhabiting creeks and estuaries of the St. Johns River begin their annual journey in search of ocean waters. Now as juvenile shrimp, they leave the fresh and brackish water nursery grounds of the river behind them as they seek warm ocean waters to spawn as adults. In a matter of weeks during their journey the size of these young shrimp will increase immensely. Once the ocean spawn has taken place, a new round of shrimp larvae will find their way to the very same fresh and brackish waters for yet another new life cycle of brown and white shrimp.
For many years we have come to expect this life cycle of shrimp on the St. Johns. In our particular area of the river we just know it as shrimping season, which comes highly anticipated each year in hopes of great bounty of fantastic tasting shrimp. In North Florida we catch shrimp differently than other parts of the state. While many areas of the state will use dip nets at night, we use cast nets for both daytime and nighttime shrimping.
Once the most popular way to shrimp around here was nighttime shrimping, which has now taken a back seat to daytime shrimping. In most cases, daytime shrimping only requires a platform to throw your net (usually from a boat), and deeper water to shrimp in (usually 15 to 25 feet). A store bought webbed net or duct taped cast net is the best way to catch shrimp when throwing in deeper waters as the webbing helps hold the net open on its way to the bottom. Some of the more popular locations to look for shrimp in the river are Doctors Lake Bridge, Mandarin Point, Switzerland Point, Shands Bridge, and the mouth of Bulls Bay (Julington Creek). Locations to daytime shrimp without a boat include numerous area seawalls, such as the North Bank downtown Jacksonville, Old Shands Bridge in Orangedale, and city docks and seawalls in downtown Palatka.
Most nighttime shrimping is done from docks these days, although a boat will work just fine. The biggest difference from daytime shrimping (besides being dark) is that you shrimp in shallow water depths of three to six feet. Also lighting and baiting the area will be needed to attract shrimp. A combination of fish meal or cat food mixed with flour are the ingredients required for making dough balls for chumming.
Fishing Report: Time to shrimp. Try different tides and depths. Freshwater bite and croaker bite should be strong. Marker 18 at Green Cove is still a best bet.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Austin Woolf
This month’s Catch of the Month photo is of Austin Woolf, who caught this kingfish off Jacksonville Beach in July 2018.