Skip to main content

Upper St. Johns River and Lakes

Brevard County

St. Johns Upper

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 Returns" 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.

The river ran pretty low from January through March but some rains in mid-March brought it back up to near bank full. Still with the dry season the water level can generally be expected to fall throughout the April-June period. Falling water levels can concentrate the fish and make fishing very productive though navigation may become a challenge for some vessels. North of Lake Poinsett target the deeper water in sharp bends and drop-offs near shallow bars. Due to the shallow water anglers may have to do some walking to get around/over sandbars later in the quarter if the wet season that should start in mid to late May is delayed. Use caution. Traditional methods for taking all species will work. The St. Johns River is a great place to go throw a small spinner and see what kind of mixed bag of fish you can catch. Many bass anglers who fish this area prefer to swim plastic worms and jerk baits or twitch shallow-running minnow imitations for bass. Fly-fishing with a surface popper is another rewarding way to catch both bass and panfish in these sections of the river.

The best fishing associated with the lakes in low water tends to be at the river entrances and outlets or adjacent canals. Fish will be fairy concentrated on the outer edge of emergent plants in Lakes Poinsett, Winder, and Washington at the present water level but if the water drops another foot or so then it will be time to look to deeper options. Panfish beds may be in open water in both the river and the lakes during low water.

Popular Species

Popular Sport Fish Species

Fish graphics by Duane Raver, Jr.

More species information is available for:

Largemouth bass, Bluegill, Redear sunfish, Channel catfish

Lake Poinsett Map

Lake Poinsett is a large lake in Brevard County, near the city of Cocoa. There are a two public boat ramps that provide access to the lake, James G. Bourbeau Park, and Leroy Wright Recreation Area are on the Northeast side of the lake where SR 520 crosses the St. Johns River. These parks also provide shore fishing access to the St. Johns River as well as a fishing pier at the Leroy Wright Ramp There are several coves with pads and rushes that will produce Largemouth Bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and the occasional sunshine bass. Crappie anglers can find schooling fish offshore by trolling and jigging minnows in open water.

Lake Washington Map

Lake Washington anglers can find bream, crappie, largemouth bass, and catfish. Lake Washington Park on the East side of the lake offers a boat ramp, fishing pier, restrooms, pavilions, and parking. Shore anglers may have luck fishing for bass and bream around the the pads and bulrushes from the public fishing pier. Boat anglers will find abundant emergent vegetation on the north end of the lake as well as several fish attractors marked by buoys. Fishing the emergent vegetation and woody debris on the East and Southeast shoreline can be productive for bass and bream. Crappie anglers may have luck drifting open water areas with jigs and minnows.

FWC Trophy Catch Logo

TrophyCatch 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 system:

Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 419

Trophy Club (10 - 12.9 pounds): 76