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:

Water levels are back up to normal and anglers should find bass and panfish catches improving as temperatures moderate.  Moving water usually stimulates feeding activity where the river enters and exits the lakes.  Locating fish may be difficult but bass anglers can expect to find fish hiding in shoreline habitat inundated by the high water.   If water levels are still up through December, bass will move up into protected areas behind bulrushes and into wind protected coves as they prepare to spawn.  Bass fishing should be fair to good on lakes Washington, Winder, and Poinsett. Some excellent catches of bass were reported by local anglers on Lake Poinsett and Winder this quarter last year.

Riverine sections from SR 520 north to Halfway Lake and the middle river section between Winder and Poinsett should also be productive as water levels begin to come down later in the quarter.  Most traditional methods for taking bass will work. Swimming and weighted plastic worms/jerk baits and twitching shallow running minnow imitations are the choice among many bass fishermen. 

Crappie anglers should take fair numbers of fish by slow trolling artificials (small jigs and beetle spins) or by drifting with live minnows in the deeper, open water areas of lakes Poinsett, Winder, and Washington. Late in the quarter, crappie can also be found moving into and concentrating around bulrush patches, preferring those mixed with submerged and floating vegetation to provide overhead cover.  Deeper undercut bends in the middle river section between lakes Winder and Poinsett and the stretch between lakes Washington and Sawgrass can also be productive for crappie anglers this time of the year.


FWC Facts:
Groupers are very slow-growing fish, taking anywhere from 4-8 years to reach sexual maturity.

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