By Captain David Lifka
It’s been a few years since we’ve had a decent shrimping season. With a decent shrimping season comes some prime time fall fishing. Reds, trout, flounder, and sheepshead become the biggest targets of local anglers, with a nice variety of other species out there to still add to the cooler.
Salinity levels in the St. Johns River are one of the main contributing factors that help determine the quality and length of the annual shrimp run. Usually too much rain caused by an overactive rainy season, or too much rain dumped all at once from a passing tropical system can reduce the river’s salinity levels to a point where shrimp and their predators leave our area waters for those a little saltier.
Weather conditions this summer (and now officially fall), have been very cooperative. Hurricane Dorian spared us with a glancing blow delivering much less rain than predicted. As a result, we are having one of the better shrimp runs we’ve seen in recent years. Our main shrimping locations from downtown to Green Cove have been providing an easy five gallon limit for weeks. Good numbers have even been caught all the way up Julington Creek to the Julington Creek Bridge in baited areas at night. As long as weather conditions remain similar, it’s possible this year’s shrimp run could continue to be strong well into October and beyond.
With a good shrimp run happening, it’s only logical to expect the same for fishing. Fishing in the river for saltwater species usually comes to a peak this time of year because of some sort of shrimp run taking place. Usually the better the shrimping, the better the fishing to follow. Being able to catch and use the very same shrimp for bait that the fish are feeding on can make for a nice “catching” advantage. Tail hooking fresh caught live shrimp and fishing them on the bottom or on a jig head around a dock should produce a variety of bites. Live shrimp horn hooked on a float rig around docks or pilings should also provide plenty of disappearing floats throughout the trip.
Fishing Report: Lots of reds on docks, pilings, and schooling in the channels. Live, extra large shrimp is your best choice bait. Flounder is abundant, with sheepshead and trout increasing as fall progresses.
Whether you catch one, some, or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.
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