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Shad Fishing in Florida- December Anticipation

Shad Fishing in Florida on the St. Johns River

Shad fishing in Florida in December is a crap shoot. Depending on the year, shad can start to show up in good numbers in the upper St. Johns River around mid December. This year is not one of those years. I guess we can blame El Nino, but, I had to try… the anticipation is killing me. 🙂

I decided to fish just upstream of the 46 bridge to see if I could find any fish. I spent about an hour there swinging Hayden Shad Flies and Kip Tailed Clousers without any luck. I moved upstream to fish some creek mouths for an hour and did not hook up there either. Rather than heading up to the mouth of the Econ River, I decided to head downstream towards Lake Harney to fish the deep outside bends of the turns, figuring maybe there were shad holding in the deep, cooler water. I did that for about another 3 hours. No luck.

While the water temperature is starting to dip below 70, outside temperatures are still hovering in the low 80’s to high 70’s. I think we still have another month before the shad make it to the upper sections of the river where we like to fly fish from bank or wade in to the water and toss flashy shad fly patterns.

The water level and the discharge rate seemed like it was on the lower side of average for this time of year. Some of the turns that I like to fish early in the season on the way downstream to Lake Harney were so slow you could barely swing an intermediate sink tip and 5/32 hourglass weighted fly. It may be a year to put the sink tips away and swing bead chain versus heavy weighted flies. A lot can happen in a month when it comes to shad fishing, so time will tell. When I got home, I swapped out my 10 foot sink tip line for a floating line with a 5 foot polyleader attached. That will at least give me the option of removing the polyleader on the water if it is not needed. IF we get a bunch of rain in the next couple of weeks, I may reverse course.

I might make one more December shad fishing trip, but will most likely try further downstream near Lemon Bluff. Patience is a virtue. 🙂

If you look closely in the photo above, you can see a flock of white pelicans flying in the distance. This is a tell-tale sign for me that the shad are not far. I believe the white pelicans may have been overnighting near the upper St. Johns, but were moving downstream during the day. This is why I will most likely try fishing the Shad Alley area next shad fishing trip.

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