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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 water level is bit above the bank in most areas but falling fast by St. Johns River sluggish standards as we head toward the dry season. Water level will fall throughout the quarter unless we get a big rain in October before the dry season fully sets in. The areas where the river feeds into the lakes, and where marsh flats drain into the river, can be hot fishing as water receding from the marshes flushes down more bait. It’s always fun to toss a small spinner or spoon since you might catch a bream, bass, crappie or even a catfish on any given cast when the bite is on.

Bass fishing should be fair to good on lake Poinsett. Our spring samples of bass on Lake Poinsett in February were the best they’ve been in several years with more fish and bigger fish. Things have been slow on Lake Washington for a few years, but the spring sampling in 2019 produced good numbers of small fish so fingers are crossed that it will improve there. Some excellent catches of bass were reported by local anglers on Lake Poinsett and Winder this quarter last year.

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. 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): 365

Trophy Club (10 - 12.9 pounds): 70