Upper St. Johns River and Lakes

Upper St. Johns RiverBrevard County

This 60-mile stretch of the St. Johns River is the southernmost headwaters where the tannin-stained river originates out of the vast marshes, swamps, water management areas and canal systems.  The river flows through a number of lakes ranging from 350 to 4,500 acres in size (Lake Hell'n Blazes, Lake Sawgrass, Lake Washington, Lake Winder and Lake Poinsett).  The river is not marked for navigation, flowing within a single channel downstream to Cocoa at which point the river becomes braided into multiple channels as the river flows across the floodplain downstream to Puzzle Lake. Water levels fluctuate around six feet annually between the dry (winter-spring) and wet season (late summer-early fall). These extreme annual water level changes can radically affect the physical dimension of the river, causing a less than 150 foot wide river to expand out over the flood plain and become several miles wide, changing the navigability of the river and the distribution of the fish. Most of the upper St. Johns River and lakes are surrounded by State-owned lands which makes it a very scenic environment for all users.

The "River ReturnsExternal Website is a high definition television show about the St. Johns River that will air in October on PBS. Meanwhile their Web site provides some excellent information about the river.

For further information, listings of fish camps, or ramp locations please contact our fisheries Regional Office in Ocala at 352-732-1225 or consult the Northeast Regional Freshwater Fishing Guide.Adobe PDF

Fishhound External Website also offers a fishing forecast for St. Johns River External Website.

Current Forecast:

Largemouth bass should be in the spawning mode throughout the quarter.  All lakes should be productive, especially lakes Washington, Winder, and Poinsett.  If a normal dry season develops this winter, fish should become more concentrated in areas of deeper water. Boaters are reminded that water levels can change appreciably from one month to the next, and should remain vigilant and cautious when operating their boats under these changing conditions. Anglers should focus on wind-protected areas, such as coves, behind or inside bulrush patches, and around grassy islands. Many anglers prefer to fish the back channels and sloughs within the riverine section between SR 520 west of Cocoa north to SR 46 northwest of Titusville, when water levels allow. Other river sections between lakes Winder and Poinsett, Washington and Sawgrass, and between Sawgrass and Hell ‘n Blazes should also be productive. Traditional methods for taking bass will work. Plastic worms/jerk baits, spinner baits, weedless spoons, and twitching shallow running minnow imitations are some favorites among many bass anglers.  

Early on during the pre-spawn, black crappie anglers should take fair numbers of fish by slow trolling artificials (small jigs and beetle spins, 1/32-1/8 oz.) or by drifting with live minnows in the deeper, open water areas of lakes Poinsett, Winder, and Washington. The middle river section between lakes Winder and Poinsett can also be productive for crappie anglers who like to troll. As crappie start spawning, anglers should look for them in the wind protected areas of the lakes with vegetation, especially coves with bulrushes and lilies. In the river sections crappie will become more shoreline oriented, and anglers will be most productive using long jig poles tipped with jigs fished vertically along the edge of the vegetation. Twister tail or tube jigs in combinations of pinks, greens, chartreuse, salt and pepper, and pearly white seem to be the most productive colors.

The spawning runs of the anadromous American and Hickory shad will commence during this quarter. The St. Johns River from Hatbill Park to Lake Harney is a historically productive area for excellent catches.  Other river sections where shad anglers may be successful are between SR 528 and SR 50. In recent year anglers trolling and casting for crappie have caught fair numbers as far south as the Lake Washington Weir. Some anglers prefer trolling while others like to fly fish or cast with ultra light tackle from an anchored boat or riverbank. Commonly used artificials include shad darts, streamer flies, and miniature spoons and jigs. Anglers who hook shad will be rewarded with a strong fight and the aerial acrobatics of these long distance swimmers. Anglers are reminded that a saltwater fishing license is required to target/possess shad when fishing an area by boat.


FWC Facts:
The largest lake in Florida is Lake Okeechobee.

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