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

Studying Time: 11 minutes

What flows backward at 0.3 miles per hour, accommodates crystal-clear waters, blackwater streams, and over 3,000 lakes, and has earned itself the nickname “the liquid chameleon”?

Yep, we’re speaking concerning the St. Johns River. It has so many distinctive traits that any try to explain it usually seems like a riddle that must be solved! 

The angling motion on provide right here, nonetheless, is way easier to clarify. Starting at Vero Seaside, the St. Johns River then winds by way of 12 central Florida counties earlier than finally emptying out into the Atlantic. Its waters step by step rework from freshwater to brackish because it reaches the tip of its journey.

What does this imply for potential anglers? Nicely, with each freshwater and saltwater species able to thriving right here, a St. Johns River fishing journey presents one thing for each customer.

Nonetheless, it’s honest to say that St. Johns doesn’t actually conform to the mainstream idea of what a river is. You possibly can overlook all about your typical smooth-flowing, grassy-banked waterways, usually flocked by well-known landmarks and strolling pedestrians. The St. Johns River is one other type of beast altogether!

Operating a whopping 310 miles, it’s so imposing that it’s truly categorized into three “basins.” All of them provide some very distinctive angling alternatives. Learn on for a fast rundown…


St. Johns’ Higher Basin begins simply west of Vero Seaside. This portion of the river is freshwater. It’s usually thought-about to be probably the most unpredictable part, due to its marshy, swampy waters. Because it winds its approach in the direction of Titusville, the place the Higher Basin ends, the river widens and turns into extraordinarily fishable.

The Center Basin is the shortest, clocking in at 37 miles. It’s much more navigable than the Higher Basin and presents entry to Lakes Harney, Monroe, and Jesup. These are all veritable playgrounds for the freshwater species that stay right here!

Lastly, there’s the Decrease Basin. It usually consists of the realm simply earlier than Lake George and runs north by way of Jacksonville till it meets the mighty Atlantic Ocean. In contrast to the Higher and Center Basins, the Decrease Basin is dwelling to each freshwater and saltwater species – in addition to loads of angling alternatives!


An instance of how the St. Johns River flows into Lake Monroe!

You may need seen that we talked about a lake or two earlier. We all know what’s in your thoughts: “So is that this fishery truly a river or a lake?” Nicely, though it would sound like considerably of an identification disaster, St. Johns River truly accommodates each.

Consider it this manner: The river itself might be seen as the principle “freeway” and runs from starting to finish with out stopping. It’s the longest river in Florida, although – that implies that we’re undoubtedly in want of a gasoline station or two to cease at alongside the way in which! That is the place the lakes are available in. Solely as an alternative of unhealthy espresso and overpriced snacks, you’ll be greeted with world-famous fish.

Talking of, it’s time to get onto the actual meat and potatoes of what this weblog is about. Under, we’ve outlined the highest species to be present in all three St. Johns River basins, one of the best methods to hook these prized fish, and one of the best areas to forged a line from.

Prime Catches within the St. Johns River

One thing that makes the St. Johns River so fascinating to anglers is the range of fishing spots that may be discovered right here – and with this comes an enormous variety of species.

Each journey is feasible right here – from an action-packed battle that mimics a few of Florida’s offshore choices, to a peaceable and meandering day of freshwater fishing. All it is advisable to do is determine what you need your day to seem like, and off you go!

Largemouth Bass

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

Beloved by anglers the world over for its hard-fighting spirit and recreation fishing properties, this freshwater fish is so prevalent right here that the river is usually domestically known as “a Bass fishing paradise.”

You’ll usually discover these fish all all through the river, even because the waters get extra brackish. The purer freshwater fisheries of the Higher and Center Basins are usually the best, although.

Though the principle “stem” of the river presents up loads of Bass motion, right here’s an insider tip for you: The shallow lakes of those basins provide up a veritable Bass buffet, with the Higher Basin’s Lake Poinsett being a “must-visit” for freshwater fanatics.

Though Largemouth Bass might be hooked right here year-round, it’s vital to recollect the river’s origins as a marshy wetland when planning your Bass battle.

Throughout Florida’s “moist season,” which often takes place between late spring and summer season, St. Johns’ Center and Higher Basins are inclined to flood, and the Bass transfer away from the river to discover these new marshy wetlands.

The “dry season,” which often lasts from late summer season or fall to early spring, is your greatest guess of having fun with a Bass bonanza!

Striped Bass

We weren’t kidding after we stated that this river is a Bass paradise! Though Largemouth Bass have lengthy reigned supreme right here, these waters are large enough for a couple of Bass king – it’s the longest river in Florida, in spite of everything. 

For anglers who’re extra inclined in the direction of saltwater species, or just wish to expertise the joys of hooking a fish that gives loads of combat on the finish of the road, a Striped Bass battle can’t be missed.

At one time, this much-loved recreation fish was underappreciated within the St. Johns River, and seen as an unworthy match for the extra common Largemouth Bass. Nonetheless, current re-stocks have seen feisty Striper reaching sizes of 20 inches and extra, with anglers flocking to the river’s brackish waters to battle ‘em. We do love an excellent old school comeback!

Though Striper often can not survive in hotter brackish waters, the distinctive nature of the St. Johns River actually works in its favor. The cool springs that feed into the Decrease Basin imply that this fish can thrive right here.

And thrive, they do – particularly in Lake George, which borders the assembly level of the Center and Decrease Basins. Anglers ought to plan their Striper journey from fall by way of spring, when the river is at its coolest.

Whereas we’re on the subject of Bass, it’s time to name-drop the third and last high Bass species right here – the Sunshine Bass, often known as the Hybrid Bass. This species is the results of White Bass and Striped Bass being artificially spawned. It has the facility of Striped Bass and the pace of White Bass. In our opinion, it is a actually successful mixture!

In contrast to Striped Bass, nonetheless, this fish thrives in freshwater fishing grounds, with the Higher and Center Basin’s lakes being particularly fish-filled.

…And the Relaxation!

It’s not simply all about Bass on the St. Johns River, although. This winding waterway additionally presents guests the possibility to forged a line for a complete number of different species. Listed here are those it is best to look out for…

First, there’s loads of Panfish to be discovered, equivalent to Bluegill, Perch, and the nation’s favourite, Crappie. Often known as “Specks” on this a part of Florida, this species might be discovered all through the river’s freshwater fishing grounds.

It’s a agency household favourite, too. The St. Johns River is the right place to introduce your little ones to the magic of hooking this tasty fish, due to its calm waters and bustling, year-round Crappie inhabitants. 

Persevering with on with the freshwater motion, Shad is a well-liked goal for native anglers, particularly plentiful throughout Florida’s winter months as they journey up the river to spawn.

Skilled fishermen suggest that guests aware of utilizing ultra-light deal with, in addition to fly fishing fanatics, goal this species. Why? Nicely, in response to locals, utilizing these strategies to reel in a Shad can usually really feel such as you’ve hooked your self a mini-Tarpon!

Transferring north to the river’s Decrease Basin, there’s a complete host of saltwater species to come back face-to-gills with, too. That well-known trio of Redfish, Flounder, and Noticed Trout might be discovered all through the river, in addition to in Lakes Monroe and Harney.

Head additional north, the place the river meets the Atlantic, and likelihood is you’ll come throughout hard-fighting Snook, Tarpon, and even Shark species.

How one can Fish the St. Johns River

So now you have got an thought of what lies in anticipate you in your St. Johns River fishing journey. However how, precisely, do you have to go about casting a line for the fish of your selection?

By Boat

That is the preferred strategy to fish the St. Johns River, resulting from its measurement and calm waters. If you happen to’re seeking to comply with the fish as they transfer, or wish to forged a line with out the fear of seasickness, that is the way in which to do it! Nonetheless, it’s not fairly as straightforward as merely leaping on board a ship and heading out in your journey.

Because the Higher Basin of the river is especially marshes, wetlands, and slim, shallow waterways, it solely turns into navigable from Lake Hell N Blazes, and for small vessels solely.

In relation to bigger boats, the river usually solely turns into navigable in its Center Basin close to Lake Monroe and stays this manner for the remainder of its journey in the direction of the Atlantic. 

Though it’s technically attainable to discover the St. Johns River from your personal vessel, we usually wouldn’t suggest it. In addition to the restrictions talked about above, there are additionally strict licensing rules with regards to who can navigate a ship down these waters. 

Whether or not you’re new to fishing or are an skilled angler, the most secure and most efficient strategy to discover this river by boat is alongside an skilled constitution captain.

Fortunately, due to the sheer measurement of the river and the variety of cities, cities, and counties it passes by way of, you’ll have loads of choices to select from! 

On Foot

The river’s measurement can be a giant bonus with regards to anglers preferring to forged a line whereas standing on stable floor. It doesn’t matter what species you’d like to focus on, likelihood is you’ll be capable of discover a good entry level to discover the river from.

Though financial institution fishing is technically attainable all through your entire lake, the marshy wetlands on the southernmost level of the Higher Basin don’t actually lend themselves to fishing on foot.

Anglers in want of a freshwater fishing repair, nonetheless, will discover loads of profitable spots across the river’s many lakes. Lake Monroe is an particularly common financial institution fishing locale, with miles of on-foot entry to be discovered from the close by city of Sanford.

By Kayak

Kayak fishing is a well-liked strategy to discover the St. Johns River. It’s most likely the one strategy to entry all 310 miles of this waterway! This technique of fishing permits anglers to succeed in hotspots which are technically inaccessible for bigger vessels, in addition to on foot.

Along with this, kayak fishing is the right strategy to expertise the peace and tranquility that this slow-moving river is able to offering. What could possibly be higher than drifting down these waters at your personal tempo, rod in hand, surrounded by nature?

You’ll be capable of discover among the Higher Basin’s narrowest, shallowest waters in your goal species. Kayaks are surprisingly stealthy! Lakes Hell N Blazes and Sawgrass are particularly common with native ‘yakkers.

You don’t have to fret about bringing your personal kayak, both – it’s attainable to hire them from the various marinas and ramps which are dotted across the river.

The place to Go

So by now, we’ve outlined the river’s three basins, the species that may be present in each, and how one can fish them. However the place do you have to go to forged your line? Listed here are a few of our highlights with regards to departing in your journey. Simply decide your basin!

Higher Basin

  • Lake Poinsett. Situated close to town of Cocoa, it is a should for Largemouth Bass fanatics. Come throughout winter for the possibility to hook a trophy!
  • Lake Winder. This physique of water is small however deceiving. If you happen to’re in search of amount with regards to Largemouth Bass, you’ll discover a bonanza right here. 
  • Taylor Creek. Flows west from the higher St. Johns River, is simple to entry, and bustles year-round with Largemouth Bass and Crappie. What extra may you need?
  • Lake Hell N Blazes to Lake Sawgrass. This stretch of the river, accessible from Melbourne, is extraordinarily productive with regards to Largemouth Bass, Crappie, and Bluegill.  Simply go to when the hydrilla protection is low!

Center Basin

  • Lake Harney. Dwelling to Largemouth Bass, Crappie, and Shad. Though entry can typically be restricted, right here’s an insider tip: head to the Mullet Lake Highway ramp to succeed in this fishery!
  • Lake Jesup. Come right here when you’re in search of a Crappie haul! It’s additionally situated near Orlando, making it the right detour for households and fishermen seeking to escape town.
  • Lake Monroe. That is the place the river turns into navigable for bigger boats, that means a bigger variety of charters might be discovered right here. It’s additionally a Largemouth Bass haven, identified for “lunkers”!

Decrease Basin

  • Lake George. Depart from the city of Welaka to entry this mighty Bass fishery! Each Striped and Largemouth varieties might be discovered right here in abundance. Guests in search of one thing barely totally different may also entry the lake’s distinctive Blue Crab fishery!
  • Jacksonville. The Atlantic on one aspect, St. Johns River on the opposite, a plethora of fishing charters, and a bustling cityscape to discover when on land…what’s to not love? A few of our favourite spots are across the Mayport Jetties, Mill Cove,  and the George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier.

Guidelines and Laws

As we talked about above, the St. Johns River has some fairly strict rules with regards to exploring these waters.

Firstly, there’s your fishing license to think about. Anglers age 16 and above who select to forged a line independently will want to ensure they buy a legitimate Florida freshwater or saltwater license from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Fee.

Trying to goal a combination of contemporary and saltwater species? You’ll must be sure to buy each a contemporary and saltwater license. If you happen to’re a Florida resident, you’ll be capable of get a mix license.

The excellent news is that when you select to fish alongside a neighborhood constitution operator, your saltwater license can be lined, that means you simply must seize a freshwater one. 

In relation to conserving the fish you catch, the final rule of thumb is to comply with Florida’s state-wide rules. Nonetheless, there’s one rule to pay attention to with regards to Largemouth Bass.

Fishing within the St. Johns River Water Administration Space (Farm 13, together with the Stick Marsh), or Indian River and Brevard counties? You’ll must launch any Bass you hook instantly. 

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

For a physique of water that accommodates so many multitudes, the rationale why the St. Johns River has stood the check of time as a high fishery is definitely fairly easy. It’s true that if you need selection, you possibly can undoubtedly discover it right here. What actually makes this waterway so particular, although, is that it appeals to guests from all walks of life.

Early, we described the river as a freeway, however truly, it’s extra of a vein that runs by way of Central Florida. It pumps life into the realm, connects numerous communities, and brings folks collectively. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a saltwater fanatic or freshwater fanatic. On the St. Johns River, there’s one thing for everybody, and everyone seems to be welcome!

Have you ever ever been fishing on the St. Johns River? Which basin did you discover, and what did you catch? Any high suggestions, methods, or recommendation for fishing this river? Tell us under!

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