St. Johns River Fishing
I just returned from my annual Shad fishing trip on the St. Johns River.
My friends Darrell, Bill and I have been doing this every year for about ten years now. This year Snapper joined us.
We stay in a cabin in Blue Springs State Park. Nice cabin with heat, a kitchen, bathroom, three beds and a pullout sofa for about a hundred bucks a night.
We took two boats this year. An 18 foot bay boat with poling platform and 70 hp Yamaha. We also took the little 13 foot skiff that Snapper and I recently completed. The skiff is powered by a Lehr 15 hp propane outboard. We've named it Lehr Jet.
We drove up to Blue Springs from Miami on Monday, grabbed some dinner at our favorite Italian place, bought our groceries and booze that night.
Tuesday we drove to The Jolly Gator on St Road 46 and launched both boats. The river was about four feet higher than I've ever seen it! We usually head south from the Jolly Gator in the morning and then turn up the Econlockhatchee River (the Econ).
We missed the mouth of the Econ as everything looked different because of the high water. There was water where normally there are cows, very confusing.
To catch the elusive American Shad we troll little jigs and spoons, While looking for the Econ, I hooked and fought a good sized shad. He released himself at the side of the boat. This turned out to be the only fish of the trip.
We found the Econ and started heading up stream. We always catch Large Mouth and Sunshine Bass in the Econ, not this time. Didn't matter, the Econ is beautiful and wild.
We headed back about 1pm for lunch at the Jolly Gator. They serve the usual swamp food, Gator, Frog, and Cat Fish. Their burgers are great as well. The Swamp Cabbage is not to be missed. Hearts of Palm cooked with spicy sausage. Grease and a little vinegar, it's wonderful.
After lunch we headed North downstream. Snapper and I were tired of trolling so we gave the Lehr a big gulp of propane and ran on plane all the way to Lake Harney. I think Lake Harney is about as far up stream as you can get with a large boat. It was beautiful with huge flocks of white Pelicans.
This is a great place to see birds. Dozens of varieties and lots of Bald Eagles. Didn't see any Ospreys this year which is strange. We usually see LOTS of Ospreys.
That night I made a roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding for dinner.
The next day we all went in the 18 footer and we fished the Lemmon Bluff stretch of the river. There are some nice houses on this stretch of the river with large stretches of undeveloped land between. Again no fish but saw lots of birds including a pair of eagles circling in a thermal (rising air).
That night Snapper made steaks on the grill.
The next morning Darrell made hash with the left over beef and potatoes.
We walked down to the spring run to check out the Manatees. There were probably only a couple of dozen as it wasn't cold enough to drive them in from the river. It was good to see lots of babies including one Momma who had twins.
There was a good population of Tarpon and Snook as well. Unfortunately there is a huge population of Tilapia which are an invasive species. I hope Tarpon and Snook like to eat them.
We left the park and headed South on I-95. We stopped for lunch at the Marsh Landing in Fellsmere. Again Southern and Marsh food. I had a burger with fried green tomatoes on it, the other guys had catfish.
We were home by six.
It is a fun trip through beautiful wild country.
The skiff and Lehr engine performed wonderfully. The bigger boat needs a bigger engine. It wouldn't plane with all four of us aboard. I'm going to look into a Yamaha 90 or 115 before next years trip.
Snapper is in the red jacket. He took all the other photos. He's really good with a camera. Not so much with a fishing rod. The photo of me in the bow of Lehr Jet was taken on the Econ River.