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Two More Painfully Slow Saturdays Shad Fishing

7 Palms on the St. Johns River

Let me tell you, this year is one for the books! I cannot say I have ever seen a highwater year like this. It is March 6th, and the water is still above 6ft at S.R.50! While I have caught fish this season, it has been painfully slow.

Two weekends ago, Ray and I fished a half day out of C.S. Lee on his big boat. With the water still over 4.7ft on the Lake Harney gage, the floodplain was still pretty much underwater, so wading was not really reasonable or enjoyable. We were met with a stiff NNW wind that stacked the water up at the mouth of the Econ. I didn’t even put a fly rod together. So much for Shad on the Fly, it has been a season of spinning rods.

We fished the East bank for a couple of hours with spinning tackle before making the run through Puzzle Lake to a few hot spots we know. In near 5 hours of fishing, we managed to hook one shad between the two of us before calling it a day.

With the water at S.R.50 down just a third of an inch since our last trip (~6.35ft,) last Saturday we decided to give Tosohatchee another shot. The road is still an absolute wreck out there, with multiple deep pools on the road to cross still to get to Long Bluff. I sure miss Powerline Road. The alternate route adds an additional thirty minutes to the trip.

The plan was to fish Catfish Hotel early before the airboat traffic arrived, then run north to look for fish. Catfish did not produce. While we did see some surface activity, it was just out of reach from the exposed shoreline we fished from, at least while using single handers and spinning tackle. I might have been able to reach them with my switch rod, but let’s just say I managed to disable it for the day and leave it at that. 🙄

We ran north and stopped near a slough we frequent. While still semi submerged, it was fishable unlike last visit. I quickly hooked (and lost) a shad on the spinning rod and missed one more. I figured we had finally found them so I grabbed my fly rod, got to work, and was soon met with a stiff headwind, which blew the line (and bait) in the wrong direction. We suffered through it for close to an hour and did not catch another fish.

We continued probing our normal haunts and were surprised how much of a difference just a third of an inch made in access. While far from ideal, I will say quite a few of our normal stops were wadable at this water level. Still, some were not. This level is probably my new highwater mark, where it becomes worth a look. The problem is, its March, not January. I will share, as I know there are folks interested, areas like 7 Palms are still too deep to reach the main channel while wading, and while the side channel is fishable, I would imagine the hike in would still be a slog fest through the mud. Go at your own risk.

We did fish the side channel and both managed high double digits of multiple species of panfish. We should have brought a cooler and had a fish fry back at Long Bluff (something the cast netters have been doing on the weekend.) 😲 It wasn’t a double-digit day of shad, but I’ll take it!

This year has been more about putting eyes on areas we frequent at different water levels than it has been about catching fish. Not necessarily by choice I would say. However, ultimately this intel will pay off in future years, as I now know what is fishable, when. This may be my last BLOG post for the season. I am still poking around, but it might be time to switch gears and start targeting other species.


    • chelenthal

      Thanks Eric. Tough season for sure, but I have put a lot of Intel in the bank this year. I am pretty sure that will pay dividends in the future. Also, I believe this may have been one of the most successful spawning years Florida has seen in all my years fishing. The 2027 run might be incredible.

  1. Cameron Caldwell

    Just found your website. Really enjoying reviewing your previous posts and I appreciate you passing on your experience on the St. John’s. Just purchased as square back canoe myself and am looking forward to exploring the area further. Thanks again.

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