Great Day in spite of the Forecast

Great Day in Spite of the Forecast

I got up this morning expecting to head to church, but the river, well she is a siren. The original plan was to meet up with Todd and one of his friends from out of town, but a last minute business trip and the forecast pushed Todd out a day. I have a hike in to Seven Palms scheduled for Monday, and while it was initially starting to look like that was going to be rescheduled, well, the river she is a siren. Unfortunately with both trips now falling on Monday, I had to make a decision, and after much deliberation this morning, I chose to stick to the original schedule and join Phil and team tomorrow on the hike (sorry Todd and Tigg.)

So what to do about Sunday? The weather forecast seemed to indicate that by 2:00 there was a 90 percent chance of rain, and the wind was supposed to be in the twenties. Looking at the radar, it seemed like the majority of the front headed our way due to a winter dip in the Jetstream, was tracking well north towards Tallahassee. Being an amateur meteorologist, as any fisherman should be, I hemmed and hawed for a bit… figuring the weather brainiacs were likely off by a few hours. However, add to that reports of tons of airboats on the water yesterday, and I just didn’t think it was worth the effort. The wind forecast, while high, was from the Southeast, the river was basically within its banks, and I was pretty darn sure there would be mosquitofish in the water.

Incapable of making a decision, I decided to put it all on the table and let my wife decide. Without hesitation, Marci said something to the effect of “this is your time of year, you were already planning on fishing… JUST GO! What’s the worse that happens, there are tons of airboats and the weather is crappy, it still beats a day at work.” Decision made (thanks Birdie!)

With all of the deliberation I did not get out on the water until 11:00. I found a stiff SSE 15 mph wind gusting in to the twenties. To my excitement though, I found the entire stretch of river from the ramp, bridge, creeks, and every inch of water up to the mouth of the Econ (and likely far beyond) boiling with fish on the surface. It has been a few years since I have seen that much activity.

While the ramp at C.S. Lee was not busy, it seemed that all of those boats were anchored up around the Econ. I decided not to venture up and fished around the bridge, creek mouths and beyond. I found the fish were taking flies just subsurface. Fishing the switch rod, I used a floating tip, 6-8 feet of level 10lb leader, and fished flies like the Fry Fly, Crazy Charlie, and Kip Tailed Clouser until about 2:00 when the surface activity disappeared, and the fish dove deep, likely due to the drop in pressure, and increase in wind (gusts up to the high 20’s, low 30’s.)¬† I then switched to a T8 tip and heavier flies. I got 8 shad to hand, and lost at least that many (the price I choose by pinching my barbs to minimize stress on the shad.)

I was hoping to hit double digits today, and I likely could have, but I decided to call it quits around 3:00. The wind really picked up to solid mid twenties, gusts well in to the thirties, and the rain started. Not worth the trouble, as I have a hike planned tomorrow. ūüôā

December Shad Fishing Report

I have said it before, and I will say it again… December shad fishing, is generally a crap shoot and this year is no different. Todd and I decided to meet up at C.S. Lee around 9:30, but with both of us running late, did not hit the water until after 10:00. Being late actually worked out okay because it allowed the dense fog to melt off, but by the time we were ready, the temperature was already in the mid 70’s. With water temperature around 65 degrees, we both decided we would wet wade, as the expected high was in the low to mid 80’s for the day.

We made our way to the creek mouths just upstream of the SR 46 bridge. With the gauge height around the 5.4 feet mark, we found the wading here to be in the knee to thigh high area. The pasture is still basically under water which we expected would likely mean the bass and panfish would be spread out, and not there for the taking in the river. We spent an hour or so casting the switch rods, swinging flies with the hopes of finding shad. With the high water and decent current, I found the 10 foot T3 Tip matched with a 5/32 hourglass weighted fly was not bumping bottom. I switched tips to a T8 and found I had a nice bouncey presentation. Unfortunately there were no takers so we decided to head on up towards the Econ.

In years prior to my utter and total consumption with fly fishing for shad with a switch rod, I often carried an ultralight spinning outfit with me, mainly to use when the wind picked up to levels that made single hand casting uncomfortable. With a switch rod rigged with a Skagit head, I found myself less put off by wind, so I would generally never pick up the ultralight and it just lived in the hold of my kayak, eventually being demoted to a dusty corner in my garage. Remembering that it once served me well, I decided to include it again, at least in the early part of this season. While I of course much prefer fishing for, and catching shad on the fly, in high water years, a spinning rod adds the option of trolling for fish as you make way from one spot to another. If you find shad while trolling, there are likely more to be caught, so you can find an area to wade near where you hooked up, and hop out and start swinging flies.

I rigged up the ultralight with a tandem rig, a pink and white Roadrunner with silver spoon as the lead lure, and a red and white shad dart trailing behind, and set out on a slow troll with the Hobie on the way up to the Econ. I took my time and zig-zagged up river, covering as much water as I could until I reached the mouth of the Econ. No takers! Not a shad, not a striper/ hybrid, not a bass, not even a humble panfish. Not a good sign!

Todd and I found good current and swung flies near the mouth of the Econ for another hour and a half, thoroughly working the area at different depths using different tips, weights of flies and retrieval methods, and again found no takers. I received a call from Philippe and found that he and John had similar luck launching from Cameron Wight, and working the area near Lake Jessup, with hopes of finding shad hanging where the South wind pushed nutrient rich water from the lake in to the river. Phil had picked up a crappie, but reported slow fishing beyond that.

After a quick sandwich and a frosty beverage, I decided to take the kayak and anchor up in the channel near the east bank. While I much prefer to wade and move around versus fishing from the kayak, when the water is high, an anchor trolly and anchor can be advantageous. I started casting the ultralight and working the area. Around 2:00, a slight south/southwest breeze picked up, creating a subtle ripple on the water, which had been glassy all day. There were large gar rolling all around me, and desperate to get the skunk off me, I made a cast near a swirl a gar had made and began retrieving the tandem rig, with a quick, jerky retrieve and hooked up with a fish. I thought maybe I caught a hybrid bass as it jumped once or twice, but when I got it to the kayak, I found a tiny shad in miniature, a hickory no more than maybe 12 inches. Unfortunately I lost the fish before snapping a picture. I caught the fish in the upper water column, as opposed to the bottom third I had been fishing prior to making the cast to the gar.

I continued fishing the upper water column and quickly caught another fish (pictured here.) Both fish took the lead jig, the pink and white roadrunner. After getting a picture and returning the fish to the water, I moved to the switch rod, switched tips to an intermediate sink, and tied on a beadchain weighted white shad dart. I had not rigged my single hand rod today, expecting to focus on two hand casting, so I began working the area with the fly, making snap- T casts with the two handed rod while seated in the kayak, not ideal, but possible. I tried to emulate the retrieve I was using on the ultralight, with the fly, but did not crack the code. I likely could have caught several more fish using the ultralight, but the allure of catching one on the fly outweighed my desire to catch another on the spinning outfit. The breeze died down, the river became like glass, and everything shut down once again. Eventually I did switch back to the spinning rod and never hooked up with another fish. The breeze seemed to be what turned the fish on.

December shad fishing is difficult, but you can catch them. For me, it required dusting off an old standby, and making some compromise. While I wanted to swing flies, a Roadrunner, worked through the upper part of the water column, while anchored up in the channel is what was required. At the end of the day, a December Shad is a December Shad, and I will take it!

9th Annual Shad and Crappie Derby 2017-2018

If you fish in Florida, don’t forget to sign up for the 9th Annual Shad and Crappie Derby. This year there are over $7500 in prizes! It looks like the rules and awards have changed, including monthly prizes! Check it out…

Three divisions will be awarded prizes for both Shad and Crappie:

  • Men‚Äôs Division
  • Ladies Division
  • Youth Division

 

  • One prize per month for the largest shad entered during month
  • One prize per month for the largest crappie entered during month
  • One Grand Prize for the ‚ÄúBest Angler Photo‚ÄĚ to be determined by the judge(s).
  • Anglers may win only one prize. (Exception: Monthly Prizes)

For more information:

Shad & Crappie Derby

 

First Shad of the Season Contest – 2017/ 2018

First Shad of the Season Contest

To get the 2017/ 2018 shad fishing season started, I have decided to run a First Shad of the Season Contest! The winner will receive a Flambeau floating foam fly box with thirty shad flies inside tied by yours truly.

First Shad of the Season Contest 2017/2018 Rules:

  1. The contest begins December 6, 2017 and ends once I have confirmed a winner
  2. This is a catch, photograph and release contest
  3. To be eligible you must:
  4. To win you must:
    • Catch a shad using a fly rod and fly
    • Be the first person to upload a picture of the fish, fly reel, and fly with the Official Token clearly visible in the image to the Shad on the Fly Facebook Group
  5. I will message the winner in Facebook to get their address and mail the prize, or setup a meetup on the water if possible. Whatever works best for the winner

Okay, this is easy right? Now we just need the water to drop another 3 feet and we should be in business! All kidding aside, I am starting to really get amped up about this shad season, and I hope a little friendly competition will help us all get out there, start hunting for fish, and come together in fellowship to share our experiences. The Shad on the Fly Facebook Group is a great place to share reports, pictures, videos, and organize some outings together. See you on the water!

First Shad of the Season Prize
First Shad of the Season Prize!

 Official Facebook Stuff:

The Shad on the Fly- First Shad of the Season Contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook. Participants understand that they are providing their information to the owner of the Shad on the Fly Facebook Group, and not to Facebook.           

Saturday Fishing Report with Mr Murphy- Hatbill Park

Shad Fishing Hatbill Park St. Johns River

I had been wanting to¬†do some shad fishing in¬†the Hatbill Park area for several weeks. With the rain this week, I saw an uptick in current and depth on the SR 50 gauge and decided that today was the day. My plan was to head to the first junction and fish that thoroughly, then maybe make my way to the turn just downstream, and if neither held shad, to head¬†up to Orange Mound to fish that pool for shad and tilapia. However, it seemed that Mr. Murphy, you know… of Murphy’s Law fame was riding tandem with me today.

A turn or two downstream of the launch, right where the river narrows and there are high reeds that might block an airboat from seeing a lowly canoe, I ran aground and cracked my hand-me-down trolling motor’s case. Broken Trolling MotorLuckily there were no airboats coming or going and the circus that ensued by me trying to turn said broken trolling motor off, failing at that,¬†getting out of the canoe to reach the battery in the bow to disconnect everything¬†while trying not to lose the canoe, while cursing (but also laughing at myself,) went completely¬†unnoticed by anyone other than a few white pelicans that must have thought I was nuts! Or at least¬†a total NOOB. By the way, I was not too broken hearted at the damage to the trolling motor, as this had obviously happened before, as the copious amounts of epoxy¬†filling the cracked case would¬†testify.

Luckily I had not forgotten my paddle, as I did on a trip with Todd this year, and I made my way the short 3/4 mile trip to the first junction quickly. Of course when I did arrive, I realized I left my cooler in the car, water and all. SMH. Anyway, I found great current at the first junction and just upstream of it. There was also decent depth in the main channel, maybe waist high. Since I was now motor-less, I decided I would fish the crap out of this junction, and skip the rest of the scheduled trip. I hooked up with two nice bass at the head of the first junction on an orange over white size #4 Kip Tail Clouser Minnow, and got a couple of pics (see below.) I worked the first junction, 5 steps at a time, from had to tail, and picked up two more dinky bass.

At about noon the wind kicked up to 15-20mph, and everything seemed to turn off. I worked the first junction thoroughly for about 3.5 hours and decided I had enough of the wind. I made my¬†way back to the ramp slowly and I fished each interesting turn with current or depth, and did not find shad. I did see one spent shad in it’s dying throws drifting in the current. Some days are better than others, and I am just thankful for the two respectable bass on the five weight today, in lieu of Mr. Murphy!

Bass on the St Johns River