Florida Bass Fishing 2024 – Day 1- February 21, 2024- Fishing the St. John’s River

February 21, 2024. One of the things I love about bass fishing is getting up early to see the sun rise, and one of the things I love about Florida is how many awesome sun rises one gets to see when one does get up early. The photos above are of our first sunrise in Florida in 2024. To the left of the tree is the boat launch for motor boats. To the right is where crew teams launch their skulls.

This boat launch is just down the road from the Hontoon Resort and where we met our fishing guide, Jim Pruitt. Jim had taken over his uncle Bob Stonewater’s guiding service after Bob suffered a stroke and retired a few years back. Mark and I had fished with Bob three times over the years.

The first thing I saw on the water was a crew team–8 ladies paddling in synchrony, with a coxswain in the front calling the cadance. I’d crewed on an 8-person skull one time in collage and loved the sense of gliding across the water and working as a team. We would see several 8-person crews, a few four-person crews, some doubles, and several people in single skulls. St. John’s had become a mecca for rowing.

Once the sun came up, we saw this mom wood duck with about 15 babies. They looked as if they had just hatched.

The best way to catch large largemouth bass is to use live shiners. Captain Jim tossed out some shiners with bobbers, others without. And we waited. But not long.

At 7:15 a.m. Mark’s bobber disappeared in the water and his line started buzzing. He set the hook, got his arms yanked a bit and pulled in his first ever hybrid striper.

We thought we were onto something, and while we had a couple more hits, we brought nothing else to the boat all morning.

But that allowed me to focus on birds and other wildlife.

As we motored to another spot, we saw this group of white birds. Zooming in a little closer revealed one snowy egret amongst a bunch of white ibis. Ibises? Ibi? Whatever the plural of ibis is, there were several of the white birdies with the long pink bills.

To the left, a wood stork sitting on a log on one foot. Above is a coastal plane cooter.

In the harsh light of the mid-day Florida sun, we saw this juvenile little blue heron. The adult version of this heron has a purple-blue head and slate gray body. This is the same photo–one in black and white, one in color.

While we had experienced caiman coming after our baits while fishing in Bolivia in 2022, and also had caiman chasing our baits in the Amazon prior to that, I was not thinking we’d have issues with gators in Florida coming after our bait. But at the end of our first day, Captain Jim threw out a minnow and hooked a small gator, perhaps 3 feet long, as captured in this video. The lil gator let go after a brief fight and swam to shore. Captain Jim threw the dead minnow toward shore and gave it back to the gator.

On our way back to the boat launch, we passed by an osprey on a nest made between two signs asking people to go slow down due to manatees.

While the fishing was less than memorable on our first day–with only one striper and one small bass, both caught by Mark–the photography opportunities were pretty amazing. Indeed, the St. John’s River never disappoints.

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