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 wet season was fairly modest for most of the summer in the upper basin, but late September has brought some rain and got the river up and flowing at a normal wet season level. Water level should fall throughout the quarter unless we get a big rain in October before the dry season fully sets in. There has been some water in the marsh for most of the summer and as water level drops in the early dry season the bait coming out of the marsh can trigger a good feed. The areas where the river feeds into the lakes can be hot fishing as water receding from the marshes flushes down more bait. Bass fishing should be fair to good on lakes Washington, Winder, and Poinsett.

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.

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

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): 404

Trophy Club (10 - 12.9 pounds): 74