By David Lifka
Around here, a hot summer usually means hot fishing on the St. Johns and to date, this year has been no exception. Favorable weather conditions have been contributing to a very favorable start to this year’s shrimp run. With shrimp in the river, you can expect much of the food chain to follow, which can mean excellent fishing for all of us through late summer and fall.
Indications that something fishy is starting to happen with this year’s shrimp run can be noticed without even wetting a line. Seabirds usually associated with the ocean become more noticeable as their presence begins to increase. Larger and more numerous schools of bait fish can be seen chopping up the water as they move about the river on calm days. Dolphins are regularly showing up south of the Buckman Bridge busting weakfish out of the water, along with a tarpon or two rolling in the distance.
With all that activity going on above the surface, can anyone imagine what’s going on below the surface? With the presence of shrimp, the whole ecosystem of the river changes. Fish that weren’t in the river just a month earlier are now everywhere. Anywhere from a few weeks to couple of months, our area of river will rank with many areas of Florida for having a really top notch fishery.
Not only do we have access to some of the sweetest, best tasting shrimp found anywhere, but some of Florida’s most sought after fish for sport and dining are cruising the river’s banks. Reds, trout, flounder, drum and sheepshead are now available for table fare. Jack Crevalle, ladyfish and even a few tarpon are showing just for sport. These are the days where anything goes and anything can happen — the best days of the year for fishing the river.
No one can say for sure what makes a shrimping season better one year to the next. Mild winters, hot summers and dry summers are all believed to figure into the equation. What we can say for sure though, is fishing the river when the shrimp are present can be a fishing experience as good as any anywhere. And while much of the food chain is following the shrimp down the river, always remember who is on the top of that chain.
Fishing Report: Shrimp first — get a dinner or two on ice — and then fish using live shrimp for bait. Bottom rigs, jig heads and float rigs will all work. For freshwater, try live shrimp on floats back in the creeks for largemouth bass.
Whether you catch one, some, or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.