OUTDOORS REPORT: Florida Fish and Wildlife Brevard Quarterly Fishing Forecast Released
By Space Coast Daily // July 15, 2017
July - September Quarterly Fishing Forecast
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission July – September Quarterly Fishing Forecasts have been updated – find out where they are biting near you! Special regulations in effect for waterbodies below are in bold. Some Fish Management Areas (FMA) may have other special regulations. Regulations are subject to change. Consult a current Florida Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations Summary (also available at MyFWC.com/fishing) for up-to-date, statewide or regional daily bag and length limits.
St. Johns River – This unique Florida river flows 300 miles north from its origin near Lake Blue Cypress west Jacksonville. Its flow is sluggish because waters at its source lie less than 20 feet above sea level, creating a gentle gradient throughout its run. The St. Johns is dependent upon rain-fall for its flow, but is navigable nearly to its source, except in times of drought, when the upper section (south of Lake Harney) is almost dry. Near Jacksonville, the river is brackish and fresh-water species are not available; however, saltwater fishing opportunities include croaker, trout, redfish, flounder and shrimp.
The remainder of the river southward towards its headwaters offers most of Florida’s freshwater sportfishes including largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, black crappie, striped bass, channel catfish and the seasonally migratory American shad. (A recreational saltwater fishing license is required to harvest American shad and other saltwater species.) Brevard County access to the river is available at a number of lakes that exist in widened portions of the river. Brevard County access to the river is also available at or near lakes Poinsett, Sawgrass, Hellen Blazes, Washington and Winder, which are actually widened portions of the St. Johns. These areas are noted below.
Lake Poinsett – Generally considered one of the best largemouth bass fishing lakes in the St. Johns River south of Lake George, Poinsett is a large, shallow lake covering more than 5,000 acres. This lake has a diversity of fish habitat including bulrush, maidencane and numerous coves covered with lily pads. The lake produces good black crappie catches during the fall and winter months. These fish also will move upstream into the river and along inshore vegetation during the spawn.
Fish for crappie with small lead head jigs (1/32 to 1/8 ounce) rigged with pink or chartreuse soft plastic tails – tube-style or curly-tailed. Panfish (bluegill and redear sunfish) also are available in good numbers around shoreline vegetation during the warm months of the year. Fly-rodding with a surface popper is a popular way to catch bass, bluegill and redear sunfish. Anglers, especially those with small boats, should try exploring the river section downstream from the lake. Access the lake west of Cocoa, where SR 520 crosses the St. Johns River, just downstream from Lake Poinsett.
Lake Sawgrass and Lake Hellen Blazes – Lakes Sawgrass (407 acres) and Hellen Blazes (381 acres) are two of the smaller natural lakes along the St. Johns River, upstream from Lake Washington. Excessive hydrilla coverage has been a nuisance during recent years. When hydrilla is present, anglers should not hesitate to fish the 21/2-mile stretch of river connecting the two lakes and the additional 3-mile stretch down-stream (north) to Lake Washington.
Largemouth bass, black crappie and bluegill will be found throughout these areas. Plastic worms, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and topwater lures will work well for bass. Late winter to early summer are productive times of year to fish these lakes. Lakes can be accessed by traveling upstream from the ramp situated at the US 192 crossing, or from the Lake Washington launch site (see Lake Washington) west of the city of Melbourne.
Lake Washington – A 4,600-acre lake fed by tannin-stained waters of the river, this is the first large lake in the St. Johns River system. This lake produces good catches of largemouth bass, black crappie and bluegill. Bass and crappie can be caught throughout the year on this lake. Bass are usually caught around the bulrush that line the lake, while most crappie are caught drifting or trolling in open water with small artificial jigs and live minnows.
Bluegill are caught around shoreline vegetation during late spring and early summer. Plastic worms, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and topwater lures will work well for bass. A public ramp is available: exit east off I-95 to Eau Gallie Blvd., north on Wickham Rd., west on Lake Washington to ramp at end of the road.
Lake Winder – About five miles upstream of Lake Poinsett in the St. Johns Chain, 1,496-acre Lake Winder can only be reached by an extended boat run from Lake Poinsett. Heavy hydrilla has plagued this lake during the past 10 years, but successful herbicide treatments in 2000 have eliminated much of the hydrilla. Largemouth bass fishing should be excellent from late fall through spring, around most emergent and submerged plant communities that extend into the lake.
Plastic worms, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and top-water lures work well for bass. Some of the best black crappie fishing occurs in the river just downstream from the lake during winter through late spring. Black crappie anglers trolling and drifting with small artificial jigs and live minnows in open water should find good fishing. Many crappie anglers sometimes use floats to mark areas where several fish are caught in order to concentrate their effort where fish may be congregating. During warm months of the year, bluegill and redear sunfish can be caught along the edges of the lake around bulrush and submerged grasses. Fly-rodding with a surface popper is a popular way to catch sunfish.
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