By Captain David Lifka
It’s been happening. Finally, a more consistent bite in the river. Summer time and fall favorites, known as croaker and weakfish (yellow mouth trout) have been coming on strong.
The hot spot has been Marker 18 in Green Cove Springs; however, if they are biting there, they should be biting around any of their usual hangouts up and down the river. Various points, drop offs, channel markers, sand bar edges, and holes that you may know of are all great spots to give them a try.
Croaker and weakfish are both rated as good to very good table fare. That’s because croaker and yellow mouths are cousins, and both are in the drum family. Fried up, either fish can be just as tasty as their better known cousins (all drum), the redfish, black drum, and seatrout.
Fishing for croaker and weakfish can be done exactly the same. A fishfinder rig with some fresh or dead shrimp for bait will work for both. Weakfish can also be caught by bouncing a jig on the bottom tipped with a piece of shrimp. Often, cut croaker is the preferred bait of the weakfish when shrimp don’t seem to be working.
One of the biggest advantages to fishing for croakers and weakfish is that they are pile fish. A pile fish is a fish that usually takes a pile to make a meal. Pile fish also carry that title because you are allowed to keep a pile with practically no size or quantity limitations (100 lbs. per person). Planning a fish fry is a whole lot easier when the croaker or weakfish are biting.
Shrimping has been spotty, but shrimping the right place at the right time can be productive, with some good sized shrimp being caught. When shrimping is slow, save them for bait as they will still probably be the best bait you can offer this time of year for any species.
October is the month when many species of fish begin their migration south for the winter. Fall surf fishing can really pick up when larger fish are following bait pods south. Anything from blues, reds, and drum to tarpon and sharks can be found and caught in the surf this time of year. Live or dead finger mullet is the bait that these fish will be looking for most. Strong braided line and a fairly stiff surf rod are probably needed for the possible bite of something really big.
Fishing Report: Time to take advantage of the croaker bite in the river. Reds under docks and schooling in the river. Look for flounder and drum under docks and around bridges.
Whether you catch one, some, or none, the family time spent fishing will last a lifetime.
Email your Catch of the Month photo 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 David Lifka
Ken Miller and Ron Peterson recently caught 30 croaker and a couple channel catfish in the St. Johns River — and threw just about as many back. Fishing is good.