The St. John's River has long been known as one of the finest largemouth bass fisheries in the World. The Florida strain of largemouth bass grows larger than anywhere else in the specie's range and each spring many northern fishermen come to The St. John's for a chance to catch the largest bass of their lives. Ten pounders are not uncommon.
In the spring and early summer, it's time to bring out the flyrod and #8 popping bugs for bluegills, which are in the shallows nesting. In the winter, the shad migrate into the St John's and provide exciting action.
Closer to town, Fox lake has long been a local favorite especially for those who don't have a boat as Fox Lake Park provides quite a bit of shoreline access to the lake.
|The largemouth bass is Florida's most popular freshwater game fish. Much of its popularity is due to its aggressive attitude and willingness to strike a lure or bait with explosive force. They will strike almost any kind of artificial lure or live bait, but most are taken on plastic worms, surface plugs, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, bass bugs and shiner minnows. The value of the largemouth as a sport fish has prompted a movement toward catch-and-release fishing. The daily bag limit is 5 bass per day, only one of which may be greater than 22 inches in length.|
|Bluegills prefer the quiet, weedy waters where they can hide and feed. They inhabit lakes and ponds, slow-flowing rivers and streams with sand, mud, or gravel bottoms, near aquatic vegetation.
Because of its willingness to take a variety of natural baits (e.g., crickets, grass shrimp, worms) and artificial lures (e.g., small spinners or popping bugs) during the entire year, its gameness when hooked, and its excellent food qualities, the bluegill is one of the more important sport fish in Florida and the eastern United States.
The daily bag limit is 50 Panfish including bluegill, redear sunfish (shellcracker), flier, longear, mus sunfish, shadow bass, spotted sunfish, (stumpknockers), warmouth and redbreast sunfish, individually or in total.
|Redear sunfish prefer large, quiet waters and have a tendency to congregate around stumps, roots, logs and in open water offshore. They are common in lower, more slowly flowing reaches of rivers. Rarely are they found in swiftly moving water. They tolerate brackish water better than other sunfish but are intolerant of cool water. Like black bass and spotted sunfish they may be abundant in tidal areas near the mouths of rivers.
Redear Sunfish are strong fighters, but more difficult to catch than most other sunfish. The redear does not readily take artificial lures but is easily taken on natural baits. Most fish are taken on cane poles with small hooks, corks, and split shot for weight. Favorite baits are worms, crickets, grubs, and shrimp fished in the spring and summer during the bedding season. Later in the season they move to much deeper water or into heavy cover, where they are difficult to locate.
The daily bag limit is 50 Panfish including bluegill, redear sunfish (shellcracker), spotted sunfish, (stumpknockers), warmouth and redbreast sunfish, individually or in total.
|Warmouths inhabit swamps, marshes, shallow lakes, slow-moving streams and canals with soft, muddy bottoms. They prefer to stay around aquatic vegetation, stumps, and snags and under the banks of streams and ponds. They have more tolerance for muddy water than most species.
The warmouth is one of the more easily caught sunfish by anglers using cane poles and natural baits, spinning tackle with small topwater lures and shallow-running spinners. They strike hard, frequently breaking the surface of the water. The best place to catch warmouths is shallow water around trees, stumps, or vegetation.
The daily bag limit is 50 Panfish including bluegill, redear sunfish (shellcracker), spotted sunfish, (stumpknockers), and warmouth, individually or in total.
|Black crappies thrive in clear, natural lakes and reservoirs with moderate vegetation. They are also found in large slow-moving less turbid rivers, provided the water is not too murky. Crappies prefer water from 70 to 75 degrees but will tolerate water over 80 degrees. It is gregarious and often travels in schools. Black crappies are excellent game fish and are highly regarded by bait fishermen and artificial-lure anglers alike.
They are easily caught during prespawning periods when the fish are congregated in large schools. Trolling with small, live minnows or a spinner-fly combination is very productive. They will also strike subsurface flies, small spinners, jigs, and tiny crankbaits. Crappies tend to suspend in midwater, so you may have to experiment to find the right depth. The bag limit on crappie is 25 per day. Great Eating.
|Channel Catfish are most common in big rivers and streams. Prefers some current, and deep water with sand, gravel or rubble bottoms. Channel catfish also inhabit lakes, reservoirs and ponds. They adapt well in standing water where stocked. Most channels are caught by bottom fishing with baits such as dried chicken blood, chicken livers or gizzards, and nightcrawlers. They prefer dead or prepared stinkbaits to live bait, but at times will take live minnows and lures such as spinners and jigs.
Strong fighters with good endurance, they are frequently caught on trotlines. Considered one of the best-eating freshwater fish. The meat is white, tender and sweet when taken from clean water. Florida aquaculturists and commercial anglers provide these fish to markets and seafood restaurants throughout the state.
|White Catfish are usually found in slow-moving streams, river backwaters, reservoirs and ponds. They will tolerate a siltier bottom and higher salinity, and prefer water temperatures of 80 to 85 degrees. Among the catfishes found in Florida, the white is second only to the channel catfish in popularity. Live bait, especially minnows and worms, accounts for most caught whites, but they also will take cut and prepared baits. An excellent food fish, whites are prized for their firm, white flesh.|
|Chain Pickerel are normally found in vegetated lakes, swamps and backwaters, and small to large rivers. They prefer water temperatures from 75 to 80 degrees. Although not so common as the black bass, chain pickerels are often encountered by bass anglers, especially while plug casting. They are good fighters, especially on light tackle. Productive lures include spinner baits, weedless spoons, surface plugs, crankbaits and jigs. Minnows are a reliable year-round bait.|
|American Shad are anadromous and live most of their lives at sea. They are plankton feeders but will strike small, brightly colored spoons, and flies when they migrate into the St. John's river to spawn. which happens between late December and early April. The limit is ten shad (all species) per day.|
10 lb test spinning gear works well whether using live bait or artificials. The most popular live bait used is live shiners, available at most bait shops. Artificials that work well include plastic worms, plasic jerkbaits, surface plugs, (my favorite are the floating Rapalas) spinnerbaits such as the beatlespin,(1/4 ounce) and weedless spoons.
When using rapalas, or spoons I use a small snap swivel tied to the line with an improved clinch knot to attach the lure. (Go to the knots and rigs page to see how to tie this.) This way, the knot itself does not interfere with the action of the surface lures, while protecting the line from line twist from the action of spoons.
Flyfishing can also be very productive using cork bodied popping bugs, muddler minnows, and deer hair bugs. For these flies, it's best to use about a # 8 flyrod as they can be a little tough to cast effectivly with lighter rods.
Tackle for bluegills (this is a generic term I'm using to cover all the panfish species here) can be somewhat lighter although it doesn't have to be. Bluegills can be caught with 4-10 lb. test spinning tackle, size 6 hooks and smaller baits such as live minnows, crickets and live worms fished on size 6 hooks under a small cork or bobber. I've also caught them on size 0 mepps spinners, small spinnerbaits such as 5/32 ounce beatlespins, and even small rapalas about 1 1/2 inches long. Use a small snap swivel with the lures.
However, this is where I believe the flyrod really shines. I use a 8 ft. # 5 rod with size 8 cork popping bugs with chartruese being my favorite color. I'm particularly fond of a popper called the round dinney. Foam bodied spiders with rubber band legs also work. I've also found that they will hit fly patterns more often associated with northern trout fishing such as royal coachmans, adams, hopper patterns, nymphs, wet flies, etc. Almost anything that resembles a floating or submerged insect seems to work.
Both bass and bluegills like cover. They are usually found around shoreline and submerged vegetation where they like to hide and ambush their prey when it swims by. If fishing from a boat, cast artificals along the shoreline, especially around lily pads and other floating vegetation. I've caught many bass by casting on top of floating mats of plants with weedless plastic worms, (unweighted) and had the bass come up through the vegetation or hit just as I pulled the worm off the vegetation into the water. Work weedless spoons through grasses growing just off the shore.
Surface lures can be cast just to the edge, allowed to set for just a bit, and then twitched just slightly for some explosive action. what I've found is that many times fish will come to investigate whatever hits the surface and then wait and stare at it until it moves slightly. Surface and subsurface flies can be fished the same way.
When fishing from the shoreline, I like to walk the shore and work the shoreline in front of me as I walk (quietly), or cast to any floating vegetation I see, or, stand back from the shoreline as you make your cast at work the lure back to shore like an injured minnow looking for cover. The same basicly applies to bluegills.
When fishing from a boat, work lures, flies and baits around shoreline vegetation and areas where vegetation like lily pads are on the surface. Trees that have fallen in the water are other good places to try. Just remember that bass and bluegills feel safer around cover and like to ambush their food.
Freshwater catfish are great eating, live near the bottom, and will readily take almost any bait that emits an odor such as cut fish, dead shrimp, chicken livers, etc. Fish these baits on the bottom with a weighted rig and about a size 1 hook.
In the wintertime, the american shad migrate up the St. Johns River south about to Melbourne. They are primarily plankton feeders yet will strike and can be caught on small brightly colored spoons on spinning tackle or streamers on fly tackle.
Another option is Hatbill Park, located within Seminole Ranch Conservation Area. To get there, go west on SR46, turn left 4.1 miles west of the I95 intersection (exit 81) and SR46. Look for signs for Loughman Lake Lodge and Seminole Ranch Conservation Area. This is Hatbill Road with hatbill park at the end of this road.
Closer to town is Fox and South Lakes, which can be accessed from a boatramp at Fox Lake Park at 4400 Fox Lake Road. Fox Lake Park is a 37 acre recreational park with picnic facilities, vollyball courts, a large pavillion with a stage, a boat ramp and fishing dock. (My largest largemouth bass I ever caught came while fishing right off this dock, 7.5 lbs. using a 7 inch shiner caught off the dock minutes before.) To get to Fox Lake Park, take SR 405 north from the intersection of 405 and SR 50 near I-95 to the second stoplight. This is Fox Lake Road. Turn to the west and follow the road to the end.
Fox Lake can be fished from shore or by boat. If fishing from shore, try the creek area that follows the access road using small surface lures, plastic worms, or surface flies such as poppers. If fishing by boat, you can head east from the boat ramp and then turn to the north to get to South Lake via a canal.
|FISHING HOME PAGE||
INDIAN RIVER LAGOON
QUICK LINKS TO LOCAL "OUTDOOR" WEBSITES:
|| Ecotourism on Florida's Space Coast || Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival - January || Canaveral National Seashore || Canaveral Tour of the Vistas || Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge || Black Point Wildlife Drive || Enchanted Forest Nature Sanctuary || Blue Herron Wetlands Park ||
Other helpful local sites:
|| Places to Go - Things to Do || Calendar of Events || Places to Eat || Places to Stay || Educational Resources || Photography ||