Upper St. Johns River and Lakes

Brevard County

Upper St. Johns River and LakesThis 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.


TrophyCatchTrophyCatch Tracker

TrophyCatch is FWC's citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger. The following TrophyCatch bass have been submitted from the St. Johns River:

Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 72

Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 16


Current Forecast:

Fall of 2016 has been very dry following the wet winter/spring of 2016 and seasonal high water of late summer 2016. As such the water levels are dropping quickly as of mid-December 2016 and will likely continue to drop through the dry season barring some unseasonable rains. Low water will concentrate the fish in the deeper sections of the river while making navigation tricky in shallower sections. Fish populations look robust in the river with excellent catches of bass, crappie, bluegill, and shell cracker showing up in fall surveys in most areas that were sampled between State Road 528 and Lake Helen Blazes. Fishing could get tricky in Lakes Poinsett and Winder if the water level drops to levels similar to spring of 2011. That could leave much of the bulrush high and dry by February. If this happens then any deeper water areas or vegetation that isn’t too shallow will likely be holding a lot of fish. This includes canals and the river at either end of the lakes. 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.

Crappie can be found around vegetated areas, especially bulrushes, sheltered from the wind. The bulrush lines on the west side of Poinsett are known to be especially productive. Specks will also congregate in the deep bends of riverine sections upstream and downstream from lakes. 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. Bends in the middle river section between lakes Winder and Poinsett can also be productive for crappie anglers. Twister tail or tube jigs in combinations of pinks, greens, chartreuse, salt and pepper, and pearly whites seem to be the most productive colors. A 10 or 12 ft. jig pole tipped with an appropriately colored jig, can be very productive when methodically fished along grass and other vegetation edges along the river.

The spawning runs of the anadromous American and Hickory shad occur in 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 and the stretch between Lake Harney and Lake Monroe. Some anglers prefer trolling while others like to fly fish or cast with ultra light tackle from an anchored boat or riverbank. The water will be lower this year than in 2014 and 2015 which will make it easier for anglers that like to walk the banks to find places to fish. It should also concentrate the fish in or near the areas where they can find flowing water. 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.


FWC Facts:
Just like fish, blue crabs use gills to breathe. But unlike fish, blue crabs can survive out of water for over 24 hours, as long as their gills are kept moist.

Learn More at AskFWC