Lake Monroe & St. Johns River Fishing Forecast – April

Crappie and bass are nearing the end of their spawning season – but don’t be sad; schooling bass, sunshine bass, big catfish and stringers full of bluegill are waiting for anglers’ timely placed offerings. Watch for insect hatches on the river and break out the fly rod. Plastic frogs, topwater lures, and suspending crank baits are hot baits this month for largemouth bass – fish the edges of the bank on top, or crank next to bait pods.

Shad schools are moving back into the lakes, and the schooling bass are feeding heavily on them. Look for raining schools of shad (or minnows) near creek mouths, or where the river enters and exits Monroe, Harney, and Jessup. Dropoffs will hold schools of bass waiting for the current to push bait up. When you can’t see the shad on top, you can sometimes locate them with your fishfinder in deep holes. Target the dropoff with sinking rattle baits at various depths when you find the shad deep. Try counting to ten before starting your retrieve to get the lure deeper.

Crappie will be taken by minnow-tipped jigging near bridge pilings, or around the many sunken trees along the banks. Catfish – big cats spawn is triggered by big rains. Two to three days following you can find them ready to take a piece of peeled fresh shrimp in any deep river bend or near creek mouths. Alas, stripers (sunshine bass here in the St. Johns) are back. Use shad imitations or live shiners along the channel edges between the I-4 Bridge and downtown Sanford for striper fun. Stripers eat minnows too – try longline trolling with an eighth ounce jig and a large minnow along dropoffs in river bends to find fish, then shut down, drift, and throw small crankbaits or shallow diving plugs.