Fishing the St. Johns River: All You Need to Know

May 18, 2021 | 11 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 11 minutes

What flows backward at 0.3 miles per hour, contains crystal-clear waters, blackwater streams, and over 3,000 lakes, and has earned itself the nickname “the liquid chameleon”? Yep, we’re talking about the St. Johns River. It has so many unique characteristics that any attempt to describe it often sounds like a riddle that needs to be solved! 

The St Johns River at sunset

The angling action on offer here, however, is much simpler to explain. Beginning at Vero Beach, the St. Johns River then winds through 12 central Florida counties before eventually emptying out into the Atlantic. Its waters gradually transform from freshwater to brackish as it reaches the end of its journey.

What does this mean for prospective anglers? Well, with both freshwater and saltwater species capable of thriving here, a St. Johns River fishing adventure offers something for every visitor.

A view of the St Johns River at Jacksonville

However, it’s fair to say that St. Johns doesn’t really conform to the mainstream concept of what a river is. You can forget all about your typical smooth-flowing, grassy-banked waterways, often flocked by famous landmarks and strolling pedestrians. The St. Johns River is another kind of beast altogether!

Running a whopping 310 miles, it’s so imposing that it’s actually categorized into three “basins.” They all offer some very unique angling opportunities. Read on for a quick rundown…

Basins

An infographic showing the three basins

St. Johns’ Upper Basin begins just west of Vero Beach. This portion of the river is freshwater. It’s generally considered to be the most unpredictable section, thanks to its marshy, swampy waters. As it winds its way towards Titusville, where the Upper Basin ends, the river widens and becomes extremely fishable.

The Middle Basin is the shortest, clocking in at 37 miles. It’s a lot more navigable than the Upper Basin and offers access to Lakes Harney, Monroe, and Jesup. These are all veritable playgrounds for the freshwater species that live here!

Finally, there’s the Lower Basin. It generally includes the area just before Lake George and runs north through Jacksonville until it meets the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Unlike the Upper and Middle Basins, the Lower Basin is home to both freshwater and saltwater species – as well as plenty of angling opportunities!

Lakes

An aerial view showing where the river flows into Lake Monroe
An example of how the St. Johns River flows into Lake Monroe!

You might have noticed that we mentioned a lake or two earlier. We know what’s on your mind: “So is this fishery actually a river or a lake?” Well, although it might sound like somewhat of an identity crisis, St. Johns River actually contains both.

Think of it this way: The river itself can be seen as the main “highway” and runs from beginning to end without stopping. It’s the longest river in Florida, though – that means that we’re definitely in need of a gas station or two to stop at along the way! This is where the lakes come in. Only instead of bad coffee and overpriced snacks, you’ll be greeted with world-famous fish.

Speaking of, it’s time to get onto the real meat and potatoes of what this blog is about. Below, we’ve outlined the top species to be found in all three St. Johns River basins, the best ways to hook these prized fish, and the best locations to cast a line from.

Top Catches in the St. Johns River

An infographic showing tip catches of the St Johns River

Something that makes the St. Johns River so desirable to anglers is the diversity of fishing spots that can be found here – and with this comes a huge diversity of species.

Every adventure is possible here – from an action-packed battle that mimics some of Florida’s offshore offerings, to a peaceful and meandering day of freshwater fishing. All you need to do is decide what you want your day to look like, and off you go!

Largemouth Bass

A man displays a Largemouth Bass he has hooked on the river

If there’s one St. Johns River species that deserves to be described as “legendary,” it has to be the Largemouth Bass.

Beloved by anglers the world over for its hard-fighting spirit and game fishing properties, this freshwater fish is so prevalent here that the river is often locally referred to as “a Bass fishing paradise.”

You’ll generally find these fish all throughout the river, even as the waters get more brackish. The purer freshwater fisheries of the Upper and Middle Basins are generally the most productive, though.

Although the main “stem” of the river offers up plenty of Bass action, here’s an insider tip for you: The shallow lakes of these basins offer up a veritable Bass buffet, with the Upper Basin’s Lake Poinsett being a “must-visit” for freshwater fanatics.

A man holding a Largemouth Bass on the river

Although Largemouth Bass can be hooked here year-round, it’s important to remember the river’s origins as a marshy wetland when planning your Bass battle.

During Florida’s “wet season,” which usually takes place between late spring and summer, St. Johns’ Middle and Upper Basins tend to flood, and the Bass move away from the river to explore these new marshy wetlands.

The “dry season,” which usually lasts from late summer or fall to early spring, is your best bet of enjoying a Bass bonanza!

Striped Bass

A man holding a Striped Bass on the river

We weren’t kidding when we said that this river is a Bass paradise! Although Largemouth Bass have long reigned supreme here, these waters are big enough for more than one Bass king – it is the longest river in Florida, after all. 

For anglers who are more inclined towards saltwater species, or simply want to experience the thrill of hooking a fish that provides plenty of fight at the end of the line, a Striped Bass battle cannot be missed.

At one time, this much-loved game fish was underappreciated in the St. Johns River, and viewed as an unworthy match for the more popular Largemouth Bass. However, recent re-stocks have seen feisty Striper reaching sizes of 20 inches and more, with anglers flocking to the river’s brackish waters to battle ‘em. We do love a good old-fashioned comeback!

Although Striper usually cannot survive in warmer brackish waters, the unique nature of the St. Johns River really works in its favor. The cool springs that feed into the Lower Basin mean that this fish can thrive here.

An image of one of the cold springs that feeds into the river.

And thrive, they do – especially in Lake George, which borders the meeting point of the Middle and Lower Basins. Anglers should plan their Striper adventure from fall through spring, when the river is at its coolest.

While we’re on the topic of Bass, it’s time to name-drop the third and final top Bass species here – the Sunshine Bass, also known as the Hybrid Bass. This species is the result of White Bass and Striped Bass being artificially spawned. It has the power of Striped Bass and the speed of White Bass. In our opinion, this is a truly winning combination!

Unlike Striped Bass, however, this fish thrives in freshwater fishing grounds, with the Upper and Middle Basin’s lakes being especially fish-filled.

…And the Rest!

A picture of Black Crappie on the river

It’s not just all about Bass on the St. Johns River, though. This winding waterway also offers visitors the chance to cast a line for a whole variety of other species. Here are the ones you should look out for…

First, there’s plenty of Panfish to be found, such as Bluegill, Perch, and the nation’s favorite, Crappie. Also known as “Specks” in this part of Florida, this species can be found throughout the river’s freshwater fishing grounds.

It’s a firm family favorite, too. The St. Johns River is the perfect place to introduce your little ones to the magic of hooking this tasty fish, thanks to its calm waters and bustling, year-round Crappie population. 

Continuing on with the freshwater action, Shad is a popular target for local anglers, especially plentiful during Florida’s winter months as they travel up the river to spawn.

Experienced fishermen recommend that visitors familiar with using ultra-light tackle, as well as fly fishing fanatics, target this species. Why? Well, according to locals, using these methods to reel in a Shad can often feel like you’ve hooked yourself a mini-Tarpon!

A man holds a Redfish on the river

Moving north to the river’s Lower Basin, there’s a whole host of saltwater species to come face-to-gills with, too. That famous trio of Redfish, Flounder, and Spotted Trout can be found throughout the river, as well as in Lakes Monroe and Harney.

Head further north, where the river meets the Atlantic, and chances are you’ll come across hard-fighting Snook, Tarpon, and even Shark species.

How to Fish the St. Johns River

So now you have an idea of what lies in wait for you on your St. Johns River fishing adventure. But how, exactly, should you go about casting a line for the fish of your choice?

By Boat

A boat drifting down the St Johns River

This is the most popular way to fish the St. Johns River, due to its size and calm waters. If you’re looking to follow the fish as they move, or want to cast a line without the worry of seasickness, this is the way to do it! However, it’s not quite as easy as simply jumping on board a boat and heading out on your adventure.

As the Upper Basin of the river is mainly marshes, wetlands, and narrow, shallow waterways, it only becomes navigable from Lake Hell N Blazes, and for small vessels only.

When it comes to larger boats, the river generally only becomes navigable in its Middle Basin near Lake Monroe and remains this way for the rest of its journey towards the Atlantic. 

Although it’s technically possible to explore the St. Johns River from your own vessel, we generally wouldn’t recommend it. As well as the restrictions mentioned above, there are also strict licensing regulations when it comes to who can navigate a boat down these waters. 

A charter boat cruises along the St Johns River

Whether you’re new to fishing or are an experienced angler, the safest and most productive way to explore this river by boat is alongside an experienced charter captain.

Luckily, thanks to the sheer size of the river and the number of towns, cities, and counties it passes through, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from! 

On Foot

A view of Lake Monroe from its banks at Sandford

The river’s size is also a big bonus when it comes to anglers who prefer to cast a line while standing on solid ground. No matter what species you’d like to target, chances are you’ll be able to find a good access point to explore the river from.

Although bank fishing is technically possible throughout the entire lake, the marshy wetlands at the southernmost point of the Upper Basin don’t really lend themselves to fishing on foot.

Anglers in need of a freshwater fishing fix, however, will find plenty of lucrative spots around the river’s many lakes. Lake Monroe is an especially popular bank fishing locale, with miles of on-foot access to be found from the nearby town of Sanford.

By Kayak

A man fishes the lake from an orange kayak

Kayak fishing is a popular way to explore the St. Johns River. It’s probably the only way to access all 310 miles of this waterway! This method of fishing allows anglers to reach hotspots that are technically inaccessible for larger vessels, as well as on foot.

In addition to this, kayak fishing is the perfect way to experience the peace and tranquility that this slow-moving river is capable of providing. What could be better than drifting down these waters at your own pace, rod in hand, surrounded by nature?

You’ll be able to explore some of the Upper Basin’s narrowest, shallowest waters for your target species. Kayaks are surprisingly stealthy! Lakes Hell N Blazes and Sawgrass are especially popular with local ‘yakkers.

You don’t have to worry about bringing your own kayak, either – it’s possible to rent them from the many marinas and ramps that are dotted around the river.

Where to Go

So by now, we’ve outlined the river’s three basins, the species that can be found in each one, and how you can fish them. But where should you go to cast your line? Here are some of our highlights when it comes to departing on your adventure. Just pick your basin!

Upper Basin

  • Lake Poinsett. Located near the city of Cocoa, this is a must for Largemouth Bass fanatics. Come during winter for the chance to hook a trophy!
  • Lake Winder. This body of water is small but deceiving. If you’re looking for quantity when it comes to Largemouth Bass, you’ll find a bonanza here. 
  • Taylor Creek. Flows west from the upper St. Johns River, is easy to access, and bustles year-round with Largemouth Bass and Crappie. What more could you want?
  • Lake Hell N Blazes to Lake Sawgrass. This stretch of the river, accessible from Melbourne, is extremely productive when it comes to Largemouth Bass, Crappie, and Bluegill.  Just visit when the hydrilla coverage is low!

Middle Basin

  • Lake Harney. Home to Largemouth Bass, Crappie, and Shad. Although access can sometimes be limited, here’s an insider tip: head to the Mullet Lake Road ramp to reach this fishery!
  • Lake Jesup. Come here if you’re looking for a Crappie haul! It’s also located close to Orlando, making it the perfect detour for families and fishermen looking to escape the city.
  • Lake Monroe. This is where the river becomes navigable for larger boats, meaning a larger number of charters can be found here. It’s also a Largemouth Bass haven, known for “lunkers”!

Lower Basin

  • Lake George. Depart from the town of Welaka to access this mighty Bass fishery! Both Striped and Largemouth varieties can be found here in abundance. Visitors looking for something slightly different can also access the lake’s unique Blue Crab fishery!
  • Jacksonville. The Atlantic on one side, St. Johns River on the other, a plethora of fishing charters, and a bustling cityscape to explore when on land…what’s not to love? Some of our favorite spots are around the Mayport Jetties, Mill Cove,  and the George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier.

Rules and Regulations

Fishing license sign

As we mentioned above, the St. Johns River has some pretty strict regulations when it comes to exploring these waters.

Firstly, there’s your fishing license to consider. Anglers age 16 and above who choose to cast a line independently will need to make sure they purchase a valid Florida freshwater or saltwater license from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Looking to target a mixture of fresh and saltwater species? You’ll need to make sure you purchase both a fresh and saltwater license. If you’re a Florida resident, you’ll be able to get a combination license.

The good news is that if you choose to fish alongside a local charter operator, your saltwater license will be covered, meaning you just need to grab a freshwater one. 

When it comes to keeping the fish you catch, the general rule of thumb is to follow Florida’s state-wide regulations. However, there’s one rule to be aware of when it comes to Largemouth Bass.

The Stick Marsh

Fishing in the St. Johns River Water Management Area (Farm 13, including the Stick Marsh), or Indian River and Brevard counties? You’ll need to release any Bass you hook immediately. 

The St. Johns River: A Riddle You’ll Love Solving

For a body of water that contains so many multitudes, the reason why the St. Johns River has stood the test of time as a top fishery is actually pretty simple. It’s true that if you want variety, you can definitely find it here. What really makes this waterway so special, though, is that it appeals to visitors from all walks of life.

Early, we described the river as a highway, but actually, it’s more of a vein that runs through Central Florida. It pumps life into the area, connects diverse communities, and brings people together. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a saltwater enthusiast or freshwater fanatic. On the St. Johns River, there’s something for everyone, and everyone is welcome!

Have you ever been fishing on the St. Johns River? Which basin did you explore, and what did you catch? Any top tips, tricks, or advice for fishing this river? Let us know below!


Comments (45)
  • jianping lou

    Oct 5, 2021

    I am new here from NJ. What is your suggestion to catch fresh shrimp in river or lake.

    Also the best spots for fishing without boat or kayak?

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      Andriana

      Oct 5, 2021

      Hi Lou,

      St. Johns River is a great place to catch some good Shrimp. These fellas on their run in the river usually congregate along the channel drop-offs.

      You can find them in the waters that are anywhere from 5–20′ deep (sometimes more) and some of the best spots are on the part of the river that runs through the city of Palatka. Lake mouths are another good option, especially if we’re talking about the Black Creek and Doctors Lake. You can also check out the Shands Pier if you’d like to go shrimping at night.

      As for good spots for fishing from the bank, most of the river offers good access – Lake Monroe and Lake George are both excellent choices, as well as the Seminole-Volusia County border on State Road 46.

      I hope you have the best time fishing the St Johns River, Lou.

      Tight lines!

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  • Bob

    Jul 21, 2021

    Hi Katie, I haven’t gone fishing in almost 20 years and am now retired. I would like to fish from shore near the Coast Guard Station in Mayport. Do you have any advise as to the best times to fish and also what kind of bait to use. Thank you

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      Katie

      Jul 22, 2021

      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for your comment. How fantastic that you’re getting back into fishing! You’ll be glad to hear that the area around the Coast Guard Station in Mayport is a great location to fish in. The waters here are brackish, so you’ll find species such as Redfish, Flounder, Spotted Seatrout, Mackerel, and Striped Bass on offer.

      Local anglers recommend using live fresh bait, with shrimp, menhaden, and golden shiners all being popular choices. The fishing here is generally strong all through the day, but during the summer most anglers tend to head out during late morning to early afternoon, as well as late evening.

      We hope this helps and that you have a great day out on the water. Let us know if you need any more advice on fishing then St. Johns River!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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      Rob

      Sep 20, 2021

      HI Katie,

      I will be visiting my son in JAX Riverside section this October. I’ve seen some anglers along the bulkheads there. Is it a decent place to fish?

      Thx,
      Rob

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      Karin

      Sep 21, 2021

      Hello Rob,

      Karin here. Great question. The St. Johns River is an excellent place to fish in Jacksonville. You can find a wide variety of fish in the waters, from trout, redfish, sheepshead, and black drum, to jacks, flounder and even tarpon.

      There are a few places that are popular fishing spots. Since you’re in Riverside, I’d recommend Memorial Park across the street from Riverside Market Square. If you have some time on your visit and want to see what the other areas along the river have to offer, you can find more suggestions and information here.

      Tight lines!

      Karin

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  • Don

    May 8, 2021

    Hi Katie you really are informative for everyone here. I moved to St. Augustine from up north (N.J.) I have been a largemouth bass fisherman for years and always dreamed about a Florida trophy bass. Now that I’m a resident I am hoping to fulfill that dream. I don’t have a boat so I will be fishing by shore so I would appreciate any info, insight as to where I would be able to fish by land and get some big bass. Thank you so much Katie and hope to hear from you soon

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      Katie

      May 10, 2021

      Hi Don,

      Thanks for reading and for your kind words! Luckily, the St. Johns River is an excellent place to visit for some excellent Largemouth Bass fishing, and the section near St. Augustine is especially productive. You can travel just 30 minutes to Palatka to explore the section of the river here, and you also have Lake George and the Rodman Reservoir nearby (both are around an hour’s drive, and it’s well worth making this journey for the ample fishing action you’ll find.) Most anglers in the St. Augustine area use common Bass-catching techniques, such as casting around structure and points, humps, and bays with minnows, crayfish, or worms.

      Lake George is known for holding good-sized Bass, with fishing being the most productive during spring and summertime. There’s plenty of places to fish from shore, such as around Ninemile Point. This section of the lake holds plenty of structure that Largemouth Bass like to lurk around, and is also protected from the elements, making it easier to cast from shore. If you’re fishing the western side of the lake, avoid the section between Juniper Point and Silver Glen Spring Run, as it’s off-limits to anglers. Instead, focus your attention on the many creeks that feed into the lake, as you’ll find plenty of Bass in them!

      When it comes to Rodman Reservoir, the first thing you need to know is that this body of water is often known as one of the best trophy-Bass fisheries in the state. The section of Lake Ocklawaha that runs from Gores Landing to the reservoir is also a top Bass fishing spot. Anglers who fish here recommend using live shiners to target your Bass, and to focus your attention around clumps of grass, stumps, and floating vegetation. The reservoir side of the Rodman Recreation Area is a great place to fish on foot here.

      Finally, the St. Johns itself also offers up Bass action. Head to the Palatka area from spring through summer and you’ll be able to target a good number of these fish. There’s a selection of piers to choose from, too, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to fish on foot.

      We hope that these tips help – come back and let us know how your trip goes!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Mark

    May 4, 2021

    Hey.
    Just want to say great info and good for you for responding to questions and comments. Me and my family are coming down to Florida and staying at castaway on the St John’s in Astor. My Dad is bringing his bass boat and we are taking kayaks as well. Any advice on fishing tips or destinations in the immediate area? We will be coming around the middle of May. Thanks for your time and any advice you might have.

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      Katie

      May 5, 2021

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks very much for your comment! I’m really glad you enjoyed the article. Astor is a fantastic place to explore the St. Johns River from. As well as the river itself, there are also plenty of lakes, feeder creeks, and backwater bays to explore.

      Only three miles north of Astor, you have Lake George, one of the St. Johns Rivers’ lakes. We’d definitely recommend heading here! The lake’s waters are brackish, which means you can fish for Bass varieties such as Largemouth and Striped, as well as Panfish such as Crappie. You can kayak and boat the lake, and there’s a variety of launch ramps, including the Lake George Boat Ramp and Shell Harbor Park and Boat Launch, to launch your bass boat and kayaks from.

      In May, you’ll be able to cast your line for a variety of fish. Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass fishing is open from May 1st until March 22nd, so you’ll be able to target these fish during your visit. Start your trip by focusing along the lake’s shoreline, which is rich in vegetation. Some strong areas for bass fishing include the lake’s western shorelines at Juniper, Salt and Silver Glen Springs. Striped Bass are also a popular target during May! Focus your attention around the pilings in the lake to battle these fish.

      I hope this advice helps, and that you have a trip to remember out on the St. Johns! Come back and let us know how it goes.

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Arodriguez

    Apr 17, 2021

    I live in Jacksonville the Mandrain area and was wondering where a good fishing spot in that area is and what baiting tactics work best for the fish in that area. I’m use to shrimp working with saltwater fish but have never fished in waters like St. John’s river before.

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      Katie

      Apr 19, 2021

      Hi Arodriguez,

      Thanks for your comment. Mandarin is a great area to fish from! You’re located right on the St Johns River, and because of the nearby Atlantic, you have both fresh and brackish waters to fish in. When it comes to the baiting tactics, it depends on the fish you’d like to catch. Catfish are pretty common here, and you’ll be able to use cut mullet to entice them. Redfish and Speckled Trout also inhabit these waters, and are especially plentiful during fall. Again, mullet is an effective bait fish. You can catch your own mullet in this area, with the waters around Mandarin County Dock being especially productive.

      When it comes to good fishing spots, you don’t have to travel far! Focus your attention around structure, such as the area’s piers, bridges, and docks. You have plenty of fishing locations with public ramps and piers to choose from, too, such as Mandarin Park, Palatka County Dock, and around County Dock Road.

      We hope this information helps. Come back and let us know how your St Johns River fishing adventure goes!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Pacific Special

    Apr 14, 2021

    I just moved from San Diego to Jacksonville. I am 4 miles from the Curtis Lee boat launch. I have been an off shore kayak angler for 23 years and am getting used too fishing in Florida. I love St Augustine but it is almost an hour away. Can I make it to good red fish spots on a kayak from Curtis Lee boat launch?

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      Katie

      Apr 14, 2021

      Hi Pacific Special,

      Thanks very much for your comment. Great question! The Curtis Lee Boat Launch is located along the Cedar River, and due to tidal influences from the Atlantic and the St Johns River, Redfish can often be found here, especially around its meeting point with the Ortega River. Due to its size, this river is an excellent place to kayak fish. The Ortega River itself is also home to Redfish, especially around the mouth of the river at Ortega Bridge, where it connects with the St Johns. Again, these locations are prime kayak fishing spots.

      We hope this helps, and that you’re enjoying life in Jacksonville. Come back and let us know what the Redfish fishing action is like!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • david

    Mar 18, 2021

    Katie– I am looking to move to the St Johns from Tallahassee. While I really want a house on the river or dunns creek or a canal or lake George or Crescent lake so I can keep my boat on a lift out back. I may end up close to the river…. I do not want to trailer my boat all the time. I have tried internet searches etc to locate marinas that do dry storage or provide slips with lifts from Satsuma to JAX I am having a hard time locating them from Palatka south. Is there a published list anywhere of marinas?

    dave

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      Rhys

      Mar 19, 2021

      Hi David,

      Rhys here. Thanks for reading and for your interesting question. I’m sure you’ll have no regrets once you settle in the St. Johns River area but you’re right, finding a suitable marina.

      You’re also right in thinking that your best bet would be a house on the river (or creek, canal, or lake), as these seem to offer the best access to the water. Between Satsuma and Palatka, unfortunately, there are no marinas, as much of the surrounding areas are designated conservation areas. Green Cove Springs has a range of marinas a little further north, while Doctors Lake and Old Bull Bay are your best bets before hitting Jacksonville. This list should include some information that could help you: https://www.floridabywater.com/lakes-and-rivers/st-johns-river-upper/marinas.

      Tight lines,

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      Carolyn

      Oct 19, 2021

      I have some info on marinas that will keep your boat dry
      .. in the Deland and Sanford area. I can also help you find a home with a dock if you are still looking. Heading out fishing in the morning on the St John’s River

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  • David

    Mar 13, 2021

    Hey Katie,

    Perfect article for me. We just moved to Fleming Island and I am interested in if Doctor’s Lake has any good fishing. If so, what might I be able to catch?

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      Katie

      Mar 15, 2021

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the comment, we’re glad you found the article useful!

      Doctors Lake is a great option if you’re looking for a chilled-out day of fishing that’ll still see you targeting some impressive species. There’s a fishing pier that provides direct access to this body of water, and it’s also common for anglers to wade fish here. During the spring, the top catch here is Striped Bass, especially if you focus your attention around the bridge pilings. In winter, Redfish and Snook can be found searching for warm waters in creek mouths, small holes, and vegetated areas. As Doctors Lake is an inlet that’s tidally influenced, you’ll also find freshwater fish here, with Crappie and other Panfish being especially abundant year-round.

      We hope this advice helps. Come back and let us know how your Doctors Lake fishing trip goes!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Scott

    Mar 8, 2021

    Fantastic article. I’m 65 and planning on moving from Hawaii to Florida, primarily for the warmer weather and to finally get back into fishing, kayak fishing to be more specific. I’d like to live close to where I fish, and am most interested in panfish, catfish, and maybe bass (never fished for them before). Any suggestions for a house hunter?

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      Katie

      Mar 8, 2021

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks very much for your comment and kind words! We’re really glad you enjoyed the article.

      Hmm, tough question – the St Johns River runs through a big portion of Florida and has strong fishing opportunities throughout. As you’re mainly interested in Panfish, Catfish, and Bass, Clay County sounds like it would fit the bill. The southern end in particular, around Green Cove Springs, is a very popular spot for anglers who like to catch Panfish.

      Palatka, which is located just south over the border from Clay County, is also a popular residential location that offers up excellent access to the St Johns River. The area around Palatka and Lake George is also known for a healthy Catfish population. Focusing your attention around these locations, which are technically located along the “central basin” of the river, would be a good place to start. From there, you can check out the many suburbs and see what suits you!

      We hope this helps a little, and wish you all the best with your move from Hawaii to Florida. Please come back and let us know what the fishing’s like once you’ve settled in!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Jason Masters

    Feb 27, 2021

    My wife, son, and I are coming down towards Melrose Florida the 2nd week of March. We LOVE to largemouth bass fish but we have never fished this far south. With only a few days opportunity to fish I was wondering if we could get any ideas where to go, or what colors to throw. We have planned to fish south of Palatka and Lake George but really have no idea where to start. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks, and Goodluck

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      Sean

      Mar 1, 2021

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks for reading.

      One secluded area you could try is Silver Glen Springs. It’s located on the western side of Lake George, and can be a very productive Bass fishing spot. There are a few nice docks you can wet the line from, and even a fishing club if you want to get some tips.

      In terms of presentations, it all depends on the weather. Orange crankbaits typically works well at this time of year, especially if the skies aren’t very clear.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Tight lines!

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  • Janet

    Feb 25, 2021

    Hi Katie!

    My mother just got a free Florida fishing license.She’s 77 and uses a walker and oxygen so I’m looking for easy spots to take her to “drop her line.” I’m thinking the the ponds managed by Florida Fish and Wildlife commission would be nice but also thinking about Memorial Park in Jacksonville (Riverside). I’ll need to get a license too so I can help her and participate. My question is, for the ponds I’ll need a freshwater license but am wondering if the St. John’s River at Memorial Park is considered fresh water.

    I know some places the water is “brackish” (Guana River State Park). Would I need a fresh AND salt water license? I was thinking about paying for fishing licenses for the entire family so just wanted to be sure before jumping in.

    Thanks.
    Janet

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      Katie

      Feb 26, 2021

      Hi Janet,

      Thanks for your comment. What a wonderful experience for your mom and your whole family! Great question, too.

      Basically, the fishing license you need is species-specific rather than location-specific. It’s really difficult to draw a line between the fresh, salt, and brackish waters of the St. Johns River and where they begin and end, and you’ll find fresh and saltwater species in different parts of the river depending on factors such as weather, water pressure, and seasonality. Because of this, we always recommend purchasing both fresh and saltwater fishing licenses for this river, no matter where you’ll be fishing.

      If you guys are Florida residents, we’d recommend purchasing the annual freshwater and saltwater combination license. If you’re not a resident, however, then you’ll have to purchase the two licenses separately. Take a look at our post about Florida fishing licenses, which has more information and links to places where you can purchase the licenses 🙂

      We hope this helps, and that you and your whole family enjoy your trip to the St Johns River. Come back and let us know how it goes!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Scott

    Feb 25, 2021

    Hi Katie and thank you for the great article. Ill be in the palatka area the second week of March. I would love to get into some sunshine or striped bass and some redfish and sea trout. Any advise on where to start and what to use in this area?

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      Katie

      Feb 26, 2021

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks for your comment. We’re really glad you enjoyed the article!

      March is a fantastic time to fish the St. Johns River. There are a few different locations we’d recommend exploring, based on your target species. Follow the river north of Palatka, around Green Cove Springs and Shands Bridge, for an impressive number of slot Redfish. Focus your attention around the piers and underwater structure, and cast towards grass beds and other pockets where the fish can hide. We’d recommend using light tackle with light sliding sinkers, as these fish like to feed at the bottom of shallow waters. Shrimp are an especially effective bait fish for them. You’ll find Speckled trout around this area, too. Focus your attention on the holes and depressions in the river bank and floor.

      For Striped and Sunshine Bass, we’d actually recommend heading south of Palatka, towards Lake George and Croaker Hole Cove. Lake George has a significant level of salt in its waters, which makes it an excellent habitat for Stripers. Golden shiners, croakers or eels are good bait fish options for both Bass species, but these fish are also attracted to lures. Focus your attention around the jetties at the south end of Lake George, where these fish like to congregate, and use heavy tackle with 3- or 4-oz.

      We hope this advice helps. Enjoy your Palatka fishing trip – come back and let us know how it goes!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Pat

    Feb 23, 2021

    Hi Katie!

    Great Information and excellent reading!

    I have a house on the St John’s at the southern end of Clay County. My grandkids (aged 6 & 8) are visiting in Mid-March. They want to go out on “Pop’s boat” and catch “lots of fish”.

    I have a 23’ Proline but haven’t fished much in the St John’s. What’s my best bet for granting the kids their wish?

    Thanks for any advice you could offer!!

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      Katie

      Feb 23, 2021

      Hi Pat,

      Thanks for your comment! We’re really glad you enjoyed the article. Great to hear that your grandkids want to get into fishing at such young ages! The section of the St Johns River around the southern end of Clay County is a fantastic spot for introducing little ones to fishing, as there are plenty of Panfish (mainly Sunfish) and Largemouth Bass in this area. You might even come across the odd Redfish or Speckled Trout, too, thanks to the influx of salty waters from the north.

      The entire section of the river that runs through Clay County is very fishable, so you can stick to the river proper and still keep the kids happy. You don’t have to travel far at all to reach good fishing spots. For Bass, target the river’s grassy areas and focus your attention around weeds, lily pads, and rocks, especially those that are in the sun. Bass love warm waters! We’d recommend bringing live bait, especially golden shiners, to tempt these fish. For Panfish, focus your attention around shallow waters around the riverbank. Bring along earthworms or crickets, and dangle them right in the Panfish’s “beds” – usually shallow water depressions along the riverbank, in warm patches of sun.

      If you’re looking to potentially hook some saltwater fish, head north towards the Leonard C Parkway bridge (around Bayard Conservation Area) and cast your line around the bridge pilings and structure. For Redfish, shrimp are a popular bait choice, whereas Speckled Trout respond well to artificial lures.

      We hope this helps, and that you have a fun and fish-filled day on the river with your grandkids. Come back and let us know how it goes!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Mark

    Feb 20, 2021

    Hi Katie,
    Great article, thanks for sharing it. I am going to be fishing from the Palatka city ramp in early April. Looking for large mouth bass. I am an avid bass angler but mostly only fish lakes and not sure what to expect in the river. Will I have to travel far from the ramp? Also will I find the docks, shallow waters and eel grass areas on the main river, or will I need to find stream and pockets off the main river? Thanks again for the great article and any advice you may have!

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      Katie

      Feb 22, 2021

      Hi Mark,

      We’re really glad you enjoyed the article! Great question. The Palatka area, especially around the city ramp, is an excellent Bass fishing location. You won’t have to travel far from the ramp at all – in fact, some local anglers recommend that you start out by actually fishing around the ramp itself! This might sound strange, but the hard bottom of the ramp attracts Largemouth Bass, and there are usually plenty of bait fish such as crawfish and shad hanging out here, too.

      Palatka City Ramp’s dock juts out onto the St Johns River, and fishing the river itself can lead to a productive day on the water. The river narrows just south of Palatka, so you’ll find plenty of shallow waters and eel grass spots here. We also recommend focusing your attention on the tributaries that connect the St Johns River to Rodman Reservoir and, if you have the time, traveling to the reservoir itself. It’s a famed Bass hotspot for a reason!

      If you have any other questions, we’d happy to answer them. And don’t forget to come back and let us know how your fishing trip went!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Mike

    Feb 11, 2021

    How is Saint johns river in March what kind of tips would you give to Fish palatke side for largemouth

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      Katie

      Feb 12, 2021

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your comments. We have great news for you – March is THE time to fish the St. Johns River for Largemouth Bass! Your best bet is to focus your attention around docks and shallow water structure, using wild shiners or bright artificial lures. Bass love anything shiny, so the more metallic, the better!

      Local anglers recommend heading out during the early morning, when the waters are starting to warm up and Bass get more active. These fish love to stay warm, so you can often find them hiding in sea grasses and around weeds and rocks. Look for these kinds of structure and cast your line near them.

      We hope these tips help. Come back and let us know how your day on the river goes!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Max

    Oct 29, 2020

    Katie, thank you for the informative article! I have some specific questions- I will be staying on the St. John River in mid-December, a little south of green cove springs (in west tocoi). Our property will have a dock and two canoes. What gear /bait/tactics do you suggest to assure a successful fishing trip? What can we expect to catch this time of year, in this area? Thanks again for article, and have a good one,

    Max

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      Katie

      Oct 30, 2020

      Hi Max,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m really glad you enjoyed the article!

      Your St. Johns River adventure sounds like a really exciting trip – and a great opportunity to catch some fish, too. In December, you’ll be able to target Crappie in this section of the St. Johns River. Using minnows under a cork is a popular way to catch these tasty fish during the winter. You can also use lures, too. Bring a variety of colors, as Crappie can be finicky and will “tell” you what color bait they respond to on the day. A good selection should include orange, blue, white, red, pink, and dark green varieties.

      Largemouth Bass inhabit these waters too, and during December the best time to target them is during the early mornings. Look for areas with sandy bottoms, eel grass, and shallow waters (1–4 feet!). Then, use Shad-imitation lures to cast for your Bass. Traditional spinning gear is preferred by the area’s local anglers, and they recommend casting just past your target location.

      It’s also not uncommon to hook saltwater species, such as Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Striped Bass, in this part of the St. Johns River, due to the level of salinity. Striped Bass leave their cool water sanctuaries and congregate river-wide in the fall and winter. Head to waters near bridge pilings, jetties, and channel markers – it looks like Shands Bridge and Shands Bridge Pier are close to where you’re staying, meaning they could be good starting points! Shrimp, small Shad, and rattling crankbaits are effective Striper bait, and work for Redfish and Trout, too.

      Hopefully we’ve covered everything for you here. If you have any other questions, we’re here to help. Enjoy your trip out to St. Johns River – and don’t forget to let us know how it goes!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • cathy clarke

    Oct 23, 2020

    A very nice article and great to see the photos of what looks to be some marshy waterways in that area and the cypress swamp, just not sure about the nice hillside view with the autumn glory trees. I’m thinking that snuck in there by accident.

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      Katie

      Oct 23, 2020

      Hi Cathy,

      Thanks very much for your comments. We’re really glad you enjoyed the article! When it comes to the hillside view, we double-checked it and you definitely know your stuff when it comes to the St. Johns River – the picture is from a similarly-named Canadian river! We’ve swapped it out for another image of the right St. Johns River. Thanks for letting us know!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Joe

    Aug 27, 2020

    Thanks for the great write up. I moved from upstate NY to Debary 4.5 years ago and I am having not such good luck in these waters. Off course I catch fish but nothing like the fingers lakes in central NY. The first thing I realized was, I was fishing with medium to heavy rods and reels and larger darker worms with jig heads which is what I used in the clear lakes up north. Recently I moved down to light and very light Rods and reals with some floating frogs and small cranks. I’m having better luck and am finding my own system that will eventually work out for me. The time I spend fishing of course is always interrupted by work and family so this could take some time. I have been given lots of advice from fellow anglers. If I could ask a question it would be this. When casting into shad groups and trying to catch on the drop, would I use a brightly colored lure or a darker brownish colored lure? and is 6 – 10 pound line sufficient?
    Thanks so much for any advice you can give. By the way my house is in that picture you have at the top.
    Joe

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      Katie

      Aug 28, 2020

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks for your comment. We’re really glad you enjoyed the article, and how fantastic that your house is in one of the pictures we used! We also have to thank you for the information you shared in your comment, especially about the differences between fishing the St Johns River and the Finger Lakes. We think it’ll be super helpful for any anglers looking to explore this fishery.

      As for your questions, you’re right – a 6 lb line is fairly standard when it comes to targeting Shad, both in spinning and fly fishing. When it comes to the lures, we recommend using brightly-colored “Shad darts.” These are very effective at luring in this species! If you can’t get your hands on a Shad dart, then the brightly-coloured jigs, spinners, or spoons usually used to hook Bluegill or Crappie will do the job, too.

      Thanks again for your comment, and we hope that you have many fish-filled adventures on the river ahead of you!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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      joe gosselin

      Nov 3, 2020

      Katie, Thanks for responding. It’s been a couple of months and my technique has definitely improved. Catching many more and better fish. I have met a couple of older guys that have sort of taken me under there wing. Lots of knowledge. Very nice blog you have here.
      Thanks, Joe

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      Katie

      Nov 4, 2020

      Hi Joe,

      We love to hear that! It sounds like you’re really growing as an angler 🙂 Sharing tips and learning from older anglers is a great way to go about developing your skills, too. Thanks for checking back in and letting us know how you’re getting on!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Ms. Mardell Miles

    Jun 25, 2020

    You never bothered to even comment on Palatka area which is known as the Bass Capital of the World. Many bass tournaments are held here including the Bassmasters Elite. Why no comments on this great fishing rea?

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      Katie

      Jun 27, 2020

      Hi Ms. Mardell Miles,

      Thanks for reading the blog, and for your comment. This purpose of this article is to provide a general guide to fishing the St Johns River area, which covers a large part of Florida. This means that, unfortunately, there are some limitations to what we can write about.

      It’s not possible for us to mention every productive location or departure point near the river. These are chosen at the writer’s discretion and we want to convey that they are simply suggestions, and are not a definitive list. This wouldn’t be possible to fit into one blog post – as you’re aware, there are a lot of fishing hotspots along the St Johns River to pick from!

      Having an open comment section, however, means that replies such as your own can provide even more information and guidance for fellow anglers who are looking for information about fishing in this area. We did also mention some of the productive fisheries accessible from the Palatka area in our “Lower Basin” section.

      I hope this explains our perspective more, and thank you for bringing attention to the Palatka area and the fishing opportunities it has to offer.

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Richard

    Jun 15, 2020

    I live on the St. John’s near Lake Monroe. I don’t fish but would like to learn. I also heard about the shrimp run up near Palatka/Green Cove Springs. I would love to do that but I have no boat and, at my age (85) and health, couldn’t manage one anyway. I would really like to hook up with some guys and gals who would like to go fishing several times a week. Would appreciate any help or suggestions.

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      Katie

      Jun 15, 2020

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks very much for commenting and reaching out to us. We definitely understand wanting to learn more about fishing, especially near the St Johns River! Luckily, you don’t need your own boat to explore these waters, and the area around Lake Monroe and Sandford is especially productive for on-foot fishermen. A good place to start would be the marinas and harbors in the area – the Monroe Harbor Marina seems like it’s close to your location, and you’ll find plenty of local angling enthusiasts here!

      There’s also the Lake Monroe Conservation Area fishing park, and plenty of other parks with on-foot fishing access (including places you can rent gear from!) located nearby. Fishing parks and marinas are good starting points as they’re novice-friendly, and you’ll find plenty of local anglers to hook up with, too 🙂

      We hope this helps you get started on your fishing journey!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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