Best Bet

 

If big crappies are your target, head to Lake Woodruff, off the St. Johns River south of Astor, according to Capt. Bryn Rawlins of Highland Park Fish Camp. Two-pound class crappies are in good supply, and Rawlins says that during a recent two-day tournament on Woodruff the winning angler weighed 14 crappies that totaled 29 pounds - nearly a 2-pound average. The biggest fish weighed nearly 3 pounds. Limit catches of “specks” are occasionally caught, but good heavy-fish catches of a dozen per boat are more the norm.

Mid-lake trolling has been productive for Woodruff crappies. But during the recent full moon phase crappies were caught in 2 to 3 feet of water on jigs under floats. The next full moon in early March should be a hot time for bedding crappies on Woodruff.

Saltwater

Best local action continues to be redfish in tidal creeks at low water during bright sunny days when mud flats soak up the warmth and turn on baitfish and feeding reds.

Capt. Tony Bozzella led local anglers Terry Burns and Jim Matheson to 27 redfish to 28 inches, plus a 5-pound black drum while fishing the Sawpit Creek area located on the south side of Nassau Sound north of the St. Johns River. Fish were caught on 1/4-ounce TBS jigs with shrimp or mud minnows added during the last half of a falling tide.

Capt. Ron Schurr also reports redfish are stacked in the Sisters Creek area in 4 to 6 feet of water during low-tide phases. He’s using jigs with shrimp or mud minnows in the outside bends of creeks or near oyster bars.

South of the St. Johns off the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) Capt. John Eggers reports there’s hot and cold fishing action dictated by weather conditions. Redfish are taking live shrimp baits and jigs during low water phases. Flounder and trout action is slow, but some black drum are beginning to show in ICW feeder creeks.

Local angler Eddie Cabler reports that although the lower St. Johns River has stained water with temperatures in the low 50s, redfish and trout fishing has been good. Fish are spread out from Mayport to nearly downtown Jacksonville. Cabler says each day is different chasing trout on the river, with fish moving constantly. He’s doing well on trout using MirrOlure 52mr plugs in red-and-white colors. Reds are schooled in tidal creeks, with best action in the far backwater reaches during low tides. He prefers 1/16-ounce jigs with “Lil John” soft plastic lures and an ultra-slow retrieve for reds.

Capt. Leon Dana says the Palm Valley area of the ICW is giving up some reds, black drum and sheepshead, with a few trout taken, too. Tides are strong this week due to the full moon phase, so anglers are cautioned not to go into creek shallows with an ebbing flow.

Rusty Borthwick of Mayport’s B&M Bait and Tackle says sea bass fishing is good starting in about 80 feet of water. Some sheepshead are being caught from jetty rocks and docks in the lower St. Johns, but the best fishing is still a few weeks away.

On days when anglers can safely run far offshore, wahoo action has been good, according to Nathan Stuart of the Seafood Kitchen fishing team. Stuart and crew anglers Margo Klar, Rocky Cusack and Russell Stuart teamed to boat three of four wahoo, weighing 49-, 54- and 70-pounds. Bottomfishing was good for vermilion and pink snapper and triggerfish.

Surf fishing has been tough locally, with only a few whiting hitting on fresh shrimp, according to Spencer Brogden of Jacksonville Beach. Some good whiting catches are reported at American Beach on Amelia Island, however.

Capt. Tim Cutting on St. Simons Island, Ga., is leading anglers to good cold-weather fishing for redfish and sea trout. Reds are shallow in tidal creeks. Trout are deep, at 12 to 17 feet, taking grub jigs during low incoming tides. Either side of low tide is productive for redfish.

Freshwater

Local bass angler Tim Mann says largemouth bass action is on fire at the Harris Chain of Lakes, southwest of Lake George near the town of Leesburg. Fishing a tournament there recently Mann had a 12.2-pounder, a 10.2-pounder, lost an eight-pounder, and had a five bass tournament limit at almost over 40 pounds.

Water temperature on Harris is in the low 60s, putting big female bass in pre-spawn mode and they’re moving toward shore and into canals and feeder creeks for spawning. Some fish are hard bedding and will take soft plastic lures, such as tubes, plastic worms and lizards.

Mann is a Lake George fishing expert, and reports his favorite body of water is still in poor shape following the flooding from last autumn’s Hurricane Irma. Eel grass is virtually gone, and the lake is a very dark color, including the spring creeks feeding the west shore.

Some decent bass fishing in that area is available in the St. Johns River near Welaka when anglers locate fish surface-schooling and chasing shad minnow baits.

Local bass angler Joey Thigpen says St. Johns River bass closer to Jacksonville are feeding on long tapering points extending out into the river. Lipless crankbaits and Carolina rigs with soft plastics work, but anglers must work lures slowly to tempt strikes. Bass are schooled, says Thigpen, and multiple fish can be caught from an area once they’re located.

Hunting

Smoking Gun Hunting Preserve in Glen St. Mary (just west of Jacksonville) will have a pheasant tower shoot Feb. 3. Cost is $145 per shooter, with skeet practice and lunch part of the day. Contact Robert Davis (904-302-1555) for more information.

Florida’s spring turkey gobbler season is Mar. 17-Apr. 22.

Georgia’s spring turkey season is slated for Mar. 24-May 15.

You can reach Bob McNally at bob@mcnallyoutdoors.com.