By David Lifka
Whether you are new to fishing or just new to the area, a few pointers to get you aimed in the right direction before your next fishing adventure can often prove to be helpful. Knowing where, when and how to fish can easily lessen the learning curve that we often have to experience. After all, the best part of fishing is actually catching fish.
“Where” to fish should be an obvious decision as the St. Johns River has much to offer and is practically located in our own backyards. With the river’s close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean it offers the most of all fishing worlds with opportunities to fish for both fresh and saltwater species of fish including blue crabs and shrimp. With ample nearby public ramps and docks, finding fishing access is easy. Any channel marker coming off a point of land will be a good spot to stop and try if fishing by boat.
“When” to fish is anytime you have the time and weather that allows it to happen. Once you have cleared those two obstacles you can then begin to think about some of the other “whens” such as time of day or tides. When fishing the river for saltwater fish, the beginning and end of any tides seem to be the most productive. If fishing from a boat, try suspending your bait just off the bottom when the tide is at a standstill instead of casting away from the boat. When fishing for freshwater species, tides are less relevant or not relevant at all. Instead, time of day can make a difference as fish are either looking for cooler water or warmer water depending on the time of year. Try to think like a fish and fish accordingly.
Knowing “how” to fish comes with experience. In most cases, expertise is not a requirement to fish in the St. Johns. A light to medium action rod and reel with 10 to 15 pound test line will cover most of your fishing situations. Rig it with a 1 to 1 ½ ounce egg sinker followed by a swivel with an 18-inch leader of 20 to 30 pound test line and a 1/O worm or circle hook and you are ready to go. Choosing the right baits will also come with experience. First choice bait for saltwater species is almost always shrimp. Additional bait choices will be cut bait (croaker) quartered blue crab, clams, live shrimp and mullet. For freshwater, bait choices include worms, shiners, crickets, chicken livers and minnows — with tackle to match the bait.
Both fishing and shrimping begin their peak this time of year and will continue to improve into early fall with weather permitting. Whether new to fishing or new to the area, a few good pointers can help aim you in the right direction to taking advantage of some pretty good fishing and actually catching fish.
Fishing Report: Shrimp, shrimp, and shrimp. Mandarin Point, Doctors Lake, Green Cove and both sides of the Shands Bridge for daytime shrimping. County Dock and Old Shands Pier (east and west sides of river) for nighttime shrimping.
Whether you catch one, some or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.