How to Plan the Perfect Romantic Fishing Trip

The weather is warming up in North Central Florida and the fish are biting amidst a beautiful backdrop on the St. Johns River. Plan the perfect romantic fishing trip with your loved one this Valentine’s Day by following our lead.

romantic fishing trip
Plan the perfect romantic fishing trip on the St. Johns River.

Set the Right Mood

Whether you want to take a partner who is not an avid angler or is your fishing equal, you want to set the mood right with the invitation. Instead of talking about a trip that involves live bait and early trips to the river, paint the right picture by explaining your desire to spend the entire day in nature with the one you love amidst the peaceful and serene St. Johns River.

Pack Some Thoughtful Food

This is not your average fishing trip where you bring the standard six-pack and a bag of pretzels and beef jerky. Pack some fresh fruit, finger foods and pastries in a nice picnic basket that can be stored in a large cooler. Surprise your Valentine with the basket and a nice bottle of wine or champagne. Impress by remembering napkins and a corkscrew.

romantic fishing trip
Look for a romantic fishing spot that has peace and quiet, solitude and a great backdrop.

Pick the Perfect Romantic Fishing Spot

You are looking for the perfect romantic fishing spot that has peace and quiet, solitude and a great backdrop. Fortunately for you, it is hard not to find a beautiful fishing spot on the St. Johns River. Ask our charter fishing captains for advice for a romantic fishing spot where you can catch some fish and earn some bonus points from your valentine for your thoughtful spot.

Follow these tips too to help find the perfect fishing spot.

Do Not Push Fishing

At the end of the day, this is a Valentine’s Day romantic fishing trip to show your affection for the one you love. Don’t make it all about you by never putting down your fishing rod. Spend some time together in the boat at lunch and don’t push your partner to fish if he or she doesn’t feel like it. Bring along some reading material and some music and let the day unfold on your valentine’s terms.

Tell a Romantic Story

Swap the regular fishing stories with a story about how the two of you met while you are casting your line in a romantic fishing spot. Make your partner smile and feel more connected with you so he or she realizes how important it was that they agreed to come on this fishing trip with you.

romantic fishing trip couple
Make your partner realize how important this fishing trip is to you.

Be Spontaneous

We realize that anglers are usually set in their ways and go through their ritualistic motions on fishing trips because they know what works. Switch it up on this romantic fishing trip. Be spontaneous and surprise your loved one by pulling out a playlist of their favorite tunes, pull out a wild flower bouquet for her from underneath your seat or upload a photo of the two of you on your fishing trip to your partner’s Instagram account with a nice tribute to your loved one.

If you are looking for some more tips, check out these five tips for a romantic St. Johns River trip.

Rent a Romantic Cottage

Stay awhile and enjoy a romantic Valentine’s Day romantic fishing trip on the St. Johns River. Castaways on the River has quaint cottages and motel rooms just steps from the marina that allow couples to relax for the weekend and truly enjoy their romantic fishing trip in a peaceful setting.

Rent a Boat

Make sure you rent a boat to enjoy the St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and romantic fishing trip getaway accommodations today.

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Top 7 Attractions to See Near Astor, Florida

North Central Florida in Astor, Florida near the St. Johns River is a must visit spot this time of year. There is so much to do in Astor and in nearby Ocala and Daytona Beach. The great part about Astor is it’s just a 45-minute drive to Ocala and 45 minutes to Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach. Circle these seven attractions near Astor, Florida on your map to visit this year.

Lake George

Lake George near Astor, Florida is the state’s second largest lake behind Lake Okeechobee. It is a beautiful freshwater lake ripe full of bass and other fishing opportunities. At approximately six miles across and 11 miles around, Lake George is fed from the northern flow of the St. Johns River. Get out there and enjoy a sunset and do some boating on Lake George this year.

freshwater springs
The St. Johns River near Astor, Florida is home to some of the state’s most breathtaking natural springs.

Natural Springs

The St. Johns River near Astor is home to some of the state’s most breathtaking natural springs. The springs contain crystal-clear water that stays constant 72-degrees year-round. Make plans to go snorkeling, canoeing and kayaking. During the winter months, head to the springs to spot manatees that are staying warm in the springs until the coastal waters warm back up again.

Follow these tips for swimming and enjoying the local springs.

De Leon Springs State Park

De Leon Springs is a 525-acre park that produces 19 million gallons of water a day at 72 degrees year-round! The park consists of boat ramps, swimming areas and offers canoe and kayak rentals. Picnic tables, grills and a playground are also available for families.

While you are there, be sure to have one of the best breakfasts around at the Sugar Mill Restaurant, which is located in a 100-year-old 1830s sugar mill.

Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest is a nationally protected forest of 607 square miles of nature exploration. Full of natural springs and hunting opportunities, you can spot manatees, bears, deer, birds and other wildlife at certain times of the year.

Learn how to camp along the St. Johns River and the forest’s hunting guidelines.

attractions astor, florida horse jumping
Less than an hour from Astor is Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club, home to world-class golf courses and equestrian events .

Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club

Are you an equestrian lover or a golfer? Less than an hour from Astor sits the Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club, home to world-class golf courses and equestrian events that include the Ocala Breeders Sales, the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit and the Live Oak International among others.

Daytona Beach

One of the most popular beaches in the country, Daytona Beach is a great place to relax and enjoy spring break. It is also home to NASCAR’s Daytona 500 and Bike Week in February. In July, the speedway is home to the Coke Zero 400, a Biketoberfest in October and other racing events. The beach along the Atlantic Ocean is a Spring Break hotspot and a great place to visit year-round.

attractions astor, florida daytona 500
Daytona Beach is home to NASCAR’s Daytona 500 The race track is a short drive from Astor.

Rent a Cottage

Need a place to stay that’s right in the center of all of the above attractions? Look no further than Castaways on the River in Astor. Guests can enjoy quaint cottages and motel rooms overlooking the St. Johns River. Enjoy the tranquility of the river in a setting that’s close to all the attractions and events in Central Florida you plan on attending this year.

Rent a Boat

While you are here, make sure you rent a boat to enjoy some boating and do some fishing on the St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and your North Central Florida accommodations stay today.

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How to Spot Manatees in North Central Florida

The St. Johns River and the crystal clear all-natural Florida freshwater springs are home to many species of marine life, including the Florida manatee, also known as the gentle sea cow. Follow these tips to find out how to spot manatees in North Central Florida.

how to spot manatees
Follow these tips to find out how to spot manatees like these near the St. Johns River.

How to Spot Manatees in the Water

Learning how to spot manatees in the water is your first step. Look for bubbles floating to the surface of the crystal clear water. The bubbles are the oxygen from manatees breathing and lurking beneath the water! They surface for air every five minutes, so be patient.

When to Spot Manatee in North Central Florida

The months of November through April are the best months to spot manatees in freshwater springs. Manatees are seeking refuge in the warmer inland waters during this time period and retreat back to the coastal waters in the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean during the summer months.

Listen for Manatees

You will likely hear a whoosh of air and water snorts at the same time. These are the sounds of the manatees surfacing for a large gasp of air that allows them to go back under water for up to five minutes before they resurface again.

Look For Manatees in the Vegetation

Manatees are herbivores that love to munch on vegetation. Look for manatees in and around freshwater plants, where they are likely grazing in flats and sea grasses enjoying a long snack.

Stay in Shallow Areas

Manatees do not like cold weather and cold water. You are likelier to find them in shallower water because it stays warmer and allows them to regulate their body temperatures better.

Search for Manatees in the St. Johns River

Manatees heading to the springs for the winter use the St. Johns River as their river highway to come inland. You will spot them swimming in the river to get to warmer spring water.

how to spot manatees
There are great spots along the St. Johns River in Astor, Florida to enjoy manatee sightseeing.

Get in the Water and Snorkel

If you are willing to brave the constant 72-degree temperatures of Florida freshwater springs in North Central Florida, snorkeling is the best way to get an up close and personal view of Florida manatees. They are docile creatures and will not harm you.

Follow these seven tips for swimming in freshwater springs and find out everything you need to know about wildlife near the St. Johns River.

Tips for Watching Manatees Safely

Manatees are gentle creatures but you can’t get too close to them. The general rule mandated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is “you can look but don’t touch.”

You must also never:

  • Pursue or chase a manatee seeking to avoid you
  • Poke, prod or stab a manatee with your hands, feet or any object
  • Attempt to ride a manatee
  • Enter a “No Entry Manatee Refuge” location.

The manatee is protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, making it illegal to harass, hunt or capture the species. Anyone violating federal or state manatee laws can face a $500 fine and/or up to 60 days in prison. Check out state-mandated viewing guidelines for more information.

how to spot manatees
Make your manatee experience  memorable by renting a boat to enjoy the St. Johns River.

Book Your Manatee Viewing Trip

North Central Florida’s freshwater springs and the manatees that are enjoying them are a sight to behold. There are great spots along the St. Johns River in Astor, Florida to enjoy sightseeing. Book your manatee viewing trip at Castaways on the River to spend some time along the river. Castaways on the River offers cozy cottages and motel rooms right along the St. Johns River near freshwater springs.

Rent a Boat

Make your manatee viewing experience even more memorable by renting a boat to enjoy the St. Johns River. Castaways on the River offers a variety of rental boat options. Our marina rental boat operators will provide you with the tips and navigation advice you need to spot manatees and find some good fishing spots. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental, a fishing charter and lodging accommodations today.

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St. Johns River Bass Fishing: What You Need to Know

There is a reason the beautiful St. Johns River in North Central Florida has a nickname among anglers who call it a “bass fishing paradise.” The river and its many lakes and tributaries are home to thousands and thousands of fish. Study up on what you need to know to catch bass in and around the St. Johns River.

st johns river bass fishing
The St. Johns River is a bass fishing paradise that you need to witness firsthand.

Take Your Time

The biggest piece of advice that many anglers have when bass fishing along the St. Johns River is to be patient.

“You have to be patient,” says Capt. Steve Niemoeller, a North Central Florida fishing charter captain that handles fishing charters from Castaways on the River.

Most people won’t sit in the same spot for 15 minutes but Niemoeller says patience pays off because bass will likely start biting if you stay put.

Use Shiners

Wild shiners and artificial lures like SteelShad lures get the attention of bass. Bass like anything that is shiny so do not be afraid to try some shiny lures on your line to get their attention.

Look for Bass in the Grass

Bass love to stay warm and hide in sea grasses, weeds and rocks. Vegetation produces oxygen and is a great spot for small fish that bass eat too. Make sure you look for bass in the grass and other hiding spots.

st johns river bass fishing
Rent a boat to do some St. Johns River bass fishing using your new tips.

Utilize Lake George

Lake George, Florida’s second-largest lake after Lake Okeechobee, is a great largemouth bass fishing spot anglers should utilize. Bass congregate here because Lake George acts as the mouth for many smaller feeder streams. Search for bass near lily pads in the spring and drop your line in deep holes to lure them out of their hiding spots.

De Leon Springs State Park Attracts Bass

The 603-acre De Leon Springs State Park attracts a large amount of bass and pan fish. The park has a boat launch and picnic pavilions. A  Florida freshwater fishing license is required for anglers 16 years of age and older.

Crescent Lake Attracts Spawn-Ready Females

Females ready to lay their eggs use Crescent Lake because they like the seclusion of the eel beds for privacy. This makes Crescent Lake a great spot to find bass, particularly in the spring when the water temperature reaches 65 to 70 degrees.

fishing at sunset
Lake George is a great largemouth bass fishing spot anglers should utilize.

Book Your St. Johns River Bass Fishing Trip

There are so many great spots in Astor, Florida to go bass fishing that you need to plan a St. Johns River bass fishing trip. Book your stay at Castaways on the River to spend some time in North Central Florida. Castaways on the River offers comfortable cottages and motel rooms right along the St. Johns River. Guests of Castaways on the River receive a 10% discount on fishing charters with Captain Steve Niemoeller, which can be booked directly through Castaways on the River.

Rent a Boat

No boat of your own? Rent a boat to enjoy the natural beauty of the river and do some St. Johns River bass fishing using your new tips. The marina at Castaways on the River can accommodate all of your boat rental and fishing trip needs. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental, fishing charter and lodging accommodations today!

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8 Must Visit Spots in Astor, Florida

North Central Florida is a treasure trove of natural beauty that you need to explore for yourself along the St. Johns River in Astor, Florida this year. You may only have a weekend to visit so we have done your homework for you. Here are the eight must visit spots in Astor you need to visit this year.

lake george
You have to rent a boat on the St. Johns River to fully appreciate Lake George’s beauty.

Plan a Trip to Lake George

Lake George calls recreational anglers and boaters alike to its haven of shimmering water and endless fishing opportunities. At approximately six-miles across and 11 miles around, Lake George is Florida’s second-largest lake behind Lake Okeechobee. Fed from the northern flow of the St. Johns River, Lake George is actually fed its water from the south of the lake. Lake George is a wonderful spot to do some fishing and enjoy some boating this year.

Read our Lake George guide to learn more about this popular lake.

ocala national forest
The Ocala National Forest is a protected habitat waiting for exploration.

Visit the Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest is a nationally protected forest of 607 square miles of exploration. It contains more than 600 lakes, springs and rivers too. Depending on the time of year, you can see bears, deer, birds, manatees and other marine life in the forest.

Learn the ins and outs of camping along the St. Johns River, how to start a campfire and hunting guidelines in the Ocala National Forest.

silver glen springs
Spot manatees in the winter at Silver Glen Springs.

Take a Dip in the Natural Springs

The St. Johns River area near Astor, Florida is home to some of the state’s most beautiful freshwater springs, which sit near the Ocala National Forest. The springs contain crystal-clear water that stays a constant 72-degrees year-round. Popular activities in the springs include swimming, snorkeling, canoeing and kayaking. During the cooler winter months, you are also likely to spot manatees that have made their way inland to stay warm in the spring waters.

Put these springs on your must-visit list this year:

  • Silver Glen Springs is a popular place to see manatee sightings in the winter.
  • Juniper Springs provides an access point to the Florida National Scenic Trail.
  • De Leon Springs is the former home of the Native Mayacca Indians.
  • Salt Springs is a haven for turtles, bass and Blue Crabs and is not accessible by motor boats.
what to do astor florida dining
Some restaurants have boat docking access from the St. Johns River.

Dine at Local Restaurants

Astor, Florida is also a very popular spot to grab a bite to eat at local restaurants nestled near the St. Johns River. There are five must-stop dining spots that offer a variety of fresh seafood and waterfront dining options. Some restaurants have boat docking access from the river. Other restaurants are popular hangouts for motorcyclists taking leisurely weekend drives on State Road 40, so share those spots with bikers and keep an eye out for them on the road! Make sure you check out the dining scene in Astor during your next visit.

 

Hike the Florida National Scenic Trail

If you are a hiker, the Florida National Scenic Trail is calling your name. The trail consists of 1,300 miles of federally designated recreation trail that crosses right near the St. Johns River in Astor, Florida.

Try tackling the central portion of the trail near Astor, where you can search for Florida black bears, birds and enjoy the peaceful natural surroundings of the St. Johns River.

Find out how to hike the Florida National Scenic Trail and map your hiking trip today.

what to do astor florida
Plan a trip to the St. Johns River soon to relax and unwind.

See Bears on the Scenic Byway

The nationally-designated Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway in North Central Florida is the place to catch glimpses of the Florida Black Bear. The east-west segment of the byway takes motorists along State Road 40 near the St. Johns River and through the Ocala National Forest and the Lake George State Forest.

Use an app to find black bears and read up on our guide to improve your black bear spotting skills.

Book Your Next Visit

Will you not be able to visit every must visit spot in Astor in one trip? No worries. Plan another trip soon and book a stay at Castaways on the River to spend some time in North Central Florida this year! Castaways on the River offers cozy cottages and motel rooms so you can stay just steps away from the St. John River in Astor, Florida.  You can also rent a fully-equipped RV spot near the St. Johns River too. Read up on the seven North Central Florida RV tips you need to know to be prepared too.

Rent a Boat

You have to rent a boat on the St. Johns River to fully appreciate the river’s beauty. The marina at Castaways on the River can accommodate all of your boat rental and fishing trip needs. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental and North Central Florida visit accommodations today.

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How to Plan a Company Fishing Trip

Are you planning a company fishing trip with your team to celebrate the past year or prepare for the new one? As the New Year approaches, there is no better time to get out on a boat in the St. Johns River and forge lasting bonds with your co-workers to make the upcoming year a great one for your company. Follow our step-by-step guide to plan a company fishing trip.

company fishing trip
Host a company fishing trip and get out on a boat in the St. Johns River.

Count Your Anglers

You need a head count first and foremost when you are planning a company holiday fishing trip. This allows you to figure out how many boats you need to rent and how big the boats should be.

Find Days that Work For Your Employees

Timing is difficult when you are booking a company fishing trip. You need to plan ahead of time so everyone has a free schedule on the days you will be fishing. Map out the trip ahead of time and keep the calendars of your co-workers free on those days.

Are you planning a New Year’s Eve trip or a trip right after the New Year to motivate morale for the coming year? Plan ahead to make sure the schedule is solidified. Check with Castaways on the River too to plan your boat rental needs in advance.

company fishing trip rods and reels
Plan ahead so you know how many boats rentals and fishing rods and reels you need.

Connect with a Charter Captain

Find some experienced fishing charter captains to make your job easier. Charter captains know the St. Johns River better than anyone and can help you find fish easily. This will allow your team to enjoy a great day of fishing without stressing over the lack of fish they are catching.

Pick Your Spot

Choosing a great fishing spot location in a beautiful natural setting is one of the most important parts of planning a company fishing trip. Allowing your co-workers to unwind and enjoy the trip is crucial and can set the tone for a great first quarter for the New Year. We already have the perfect spot for you along the St. Johns River in Astor, Florida, where you will find a tranquil fishing backdrop and enjoy every minute of your company fishing adventure. Try these hidden gems on the St. Johns River while you are here.

company fishing trip pin
The St. Johns River is the perfect spot for your company fishing trip adventure.

Reserve Some Rooms

Your company fishing trip should be a minimum two- to three-day experience. Book a stay at Castaways on the River to enjoy your fishing trip in a setting with comfortable cottages and motel rooms that sit right along the St. Johns River.

Reserve Your Company Fishing Trip Boat Rentals

Castaways on the River can handle all of your boat rental and fishing needs. The marina offers a fleet of rental boats along the St. Johns River right next to cottages and motel rooms that have barbecue grills and fire pits. It is a great place to bring your catch back to shore and enjoy a meal that you caught straight from the river! Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rentals and your company fishing trip today!

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How to Find the Perfect Christmas Tree in the Ocala National Forest

Oh Christmas tree! Thy leaves are so unchanging. If you have never experienced the fun and excitement of finding the perfect live Christmas tree as a family, we urge you to find and cut down the perfect tree in the Ocala National Forest in North Central Florida. It’s legal as long as you follow these guidelines.

Christmas tree Ocala National Forest
You can find the perfect Christmas tree in the Ocala National Forest near Astor, Florida.

Ocala National Forest Permits

The Ocala National Forest is a great place to find and cut down your perfect Christmas tree. The Ocala National Forest is protected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service. Special forest permits to cut down a Christmas tree can be obtained at the Lake George Ranger District Station or the Seminole Ranger District Station. Permits are $7 and are available from Thanksgiving Day through Dec. 23 each year.

Finding the Perfect Tree Takes Time

The Ocala National Forest has more than 380,000 acres of protected land. It takes a longer period of time to find the perfect tree in a forest full of native plants and wildlife. Rangers will provide you with a map for three Christmas tree harvesting areas that help narrow down your search parameters. Make sure your tree will fit in your living room before you cut it down. Trees in the forest can look deceiving.

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Choose a Healthy Tree

A freshly cut Christmas tree will last longer than a tree that was cut down weeks ago and transported to a tree lot. Look for trees that do not have a lot of dead or browning needles. Gently stroke branches to make sure the needles bend and don’t fall off the tree.

Check for Live Animals

Before you begin the process of cutting down your tree, shake it and inspect it for live animals that may have made your Christmas tree their home. The last thing you want to do is place your new tree inside your home and discover there is a squirrel inside it.

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Take a Tarp

Place a tarp on the ground on the location where you anticipate your tree will fall when you cut it down. This will help your tree from falling into dirt and grass in the forest, which makes bringing the tree home much less messy.

Christmas tree Ocala National Forest
Make sure you take the proper tools to cut down your Christmas tree.

Bring Tools

Don’t pull a Clark W. Griswold and forget to bring something to cut down your tree. You don’t want to dig up a tree and its root system. Take one of the following with you to make your job much easier.

  • Battery-operated handsaw
  • Battery-powered chainsaw
  • Hatchet
  • Bow saw
  • Handsaw

Remember to bring along a pair of work gloves and some rope to secure the tree to your vehicle.

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Do Not Create Trunk Base Friction

Refrain from using reciprocal saws or any blade that moves so fast it creates friction. Too much blade friction causes the truck to get too hot, which seals the trunk up with hot sap that acts like a permanent glue to prevent your tree from absorbing water.

Cutting Your Tree for the Base

Using a handsaw or one of the above methods to cut your tree trunk, cut approximately a half-inch off the bottom of the tree trunk before putting your tree in its base. This allows the tree to absorb more water.

Do not cut the trunk base at an angle or a V-shape and don’t drill a hole in the base. These methods actually make it more difficult for your tree to absorb water.

Mount Your Tree Within 8 Hours

A fresh tree can go without water for eight hours after you cut it down before further water absorption becomes more difficult. Place your tree in a safe stand that can hold a quart of water for every inch in trunk diameter.

Do not remove the bark of the tree to get the base to fit in the tree stand. The bark is the layer that absorbs the most water.

Christmas tree Ocala National Forest
Before you find the right Christmas tree, make sure you spend some time in nature along the St. Johns River.

Allow the Tree to Settle

Once the tree is safely and securely in the tree stand, allow it to settle into its shape or fall, for anywhere from an hour to overnight before you begin decorating the tree. This allows the branches to settle.

Ensure Christmas Tree Safety

Inspect light cords and make sure they are not frayed before you weave the lights into the tree. Keep your tree away from heat sources and also never leave your home unattended with the Christmas tree lights on.

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Plan a Holiday Trip Along the St. Johns River

Are you looking to get away for a holiday trip that culminates with finding the perfect Christmas tree in the Ocala National Forest? Before you find the right tree, make sure you spend some time in nature along the St. Johns River.

Castaways on the River offers comfortable cottages and motel rooms right along the St. Johns River near the Ocala National Forest. Castaways also has a fleet full of rental boats for your use. Call Castaways on the River at (352) 759-3442 to book your Christmas tree adventure trip today!

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The 7 Best Live Freshwater Fishing Bait

Live bait will typically grab the attention of more fish than artificial bait. If you’re seeking to up your fishing game on the beautiful St. Johns River in North Central Florida, bring some of the best live fishing bait available to take home more than your fair share of fish.

best fishing bait st johns river
The tried and true worm is always great bait for freshwater fishers.

Minnows

It’s the circle of life. Big fish eat little fish. Minnows are essentially baby fish and are a popular freshwater fishing bait. Use large shiners to go along with your minnow bait when searching for bass.

Hook the minnow upside down using the same water they were captured in. Don’t puncture the minnow’s spinal cord so it can continue to move on its own while it is on your hook.

Clams and Mussels

Freshwater clams and mussels native to the St. Johns River make for great live bait. To keep them fresh, gather them from shallow water right before your fishing trip.

When you are ready to use them, crack the shell open and cut out the clam or mussel and allow the bait to harden in the sun before you put it on your hook. Try tying mussels on a hook with thread without pulling the thread too tight.

best fishing bait st johns river
Live freshwater bait tips can  help you target types of fish in the St. Johns River.

Crayfish

Crayfish are great for attracting smallmouth bass or panfish. Hook them through the tail to catch bass and use the pan mean from the crayfish’s pinchers to catch pan fish.

Insects

Beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars and crickets can be used as live fishing bait to catch panfish and trout. You can buy insects at a bait shop or try to catch them on your own. Have fun with the kids and send them searching for insects for your hooks.

Worms

The tried and true worm is always great bait for freshwater fishers. You can find them in the dirt of your garden or in local bait and tackle shops. Here are some worm tricks to help:

  • To attract trout, use smaller manure worms.
  • To prevent smaller fish from nibbling the worm without biting your hook, put just a piece of the worm on your hook. Thread the worm on the hook until it’s completely covered to avoid it from being stolen.
shrimp on a hook
Freshwater shrimp are great bait that work best in water below 70 degrees.

Shrimp

Freshwater shrimp are great bait that work best in water below 70 degrees. Looking to catch catfish? They enjoy snacking on a piece of frozen shrimp. Take off the shell and the tail before you place a shrimp on your hook.

Dough Balls

Okay, so are last recommendation isn’t exactly fresh bait. But if you’re looking to catch crappie in the St. Johns River, dough balls are your game. Dough balls are a homemade or commercially made bait treat that consists of flour, cornmeal and sugar mixed with a little bit of water. Here is a dough ball recipe the crappie will love.

Book Your Next Fishing Visit

You have the live freshwater bait tips you need to catch the most fish and target the types of fish you are looking for. Book a stay at Castaways on the River to do some fishing using your new bait tips. The marina can accommodate all of your boat rental needs. We also offer comfortable cottages and motel rooms so you can stay awhile along the St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental winter fishing trip today.

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Top 8 Florida Cold Weather Fishing Tips

Does Florida even have a winter season? The answer is yes. Lows in North Central Florida can dip into the 30s and 40s from November through March. The chilly mornings typically make way for warm afternoons with highs in the 60s and 70s. The fish in the St. Johns River adapt to the cooler weather, so we have the top eight Florida cold weather fishing tips to make your cold weather fishing experience a great one.

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Stay dry and warm with rain gear when you’re fishing as cold fronts approach.

Search in Deep Holes and Shallow Flats

Water temperatures are the main factor when you are looking for fish. When you are cold water fishing, look for fish congregating in the warmer waters they can find. The warmest spots are in deep holes and shallow flats. Use a depth finder to find these deeper spots on the bottom of the river.

Follow the Flow

The current always triggers how fish feed. Currents can come from strong winter winds and tides. Fish like to swim on the down tide and the wind side of a point that has a current sweeping across it. Position yourself accordingly to catch fish in cooler weather.

Take Rain Gear

It is not very rainy in Florida during the winter but you should still bring along your rain gear. Water spray and wave action on the river brings more water than usual into the boat this time of year on the St. Johns River. Cold days make the water spray feel even colder so stay dry and warm with your rain gear.

Monitor the Cold Fronts

Passing cold fronts come one after the other in the winter season in Florida, bringing with them a day of stormy weather followed by at least two days of windy conditions. Once the front’s storm and windy weather subsides, the fish become very active. Take advantage of that calm and warmer weather by getting out on the water and catching some fish before the next cold front comes through.

depth finder on a boat
Use a depth finder to find spots on the bottom of the river where fish are hiding to stay warm.

Rising Barometers = Good Cold Weather Fishing

Barometers measure atmospheric pressure. A rising barometer means it’s time to grab a rod and get on the St. Johns River. When the barometer goes up and down (pressure increasing and decreasing over the course of a few hours), that’s also a great time to go fishing. When the barometer stays steady or decreases, fishing becomes poor.

Hint: find a good barometer app for your smartphone to keep tabs on the atmospheric pressure.

Increase the Scent of Your Bait

You need to give fish that don’t like cooler weather more incentive to be attracted to your bait in the winter. Clip the tails of your live bait, which puts additional scent in the water and increases the chances of your fish taking your bait.

cold weather fishing
When you are cold weather fishing, attract fish with fresh bait.

Move Your Location

Be willing to move your boat and change up your fishing spots to adapt to the windy conditions that cold fronts bring to the area. Sometimes moving the boat from a shallow shoreline to grass flats can yield great fishing results.

Book Your Fishing Visit

You are now ready to handle Florida’s cold fronts and become a cold weather fishing pro. Book a stay at Castaways on the River to do some fishing. The marina can handle all of your boat rental needs. We also offer cozy cottages and motel rooms that are just steps from the beautiful St. Johns River. Call Castaways on the River today at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental winter fishing trip today.

Tips for Building the Perfect Campfire

There is something about a roaring campfire that makes the campground perfect during cool evenings in the Ocala National Forest. Follow our tips as we teach you how to build the perfect campfire to enjoy with friends and family.

tips for building a campfire Ocala National Forest
Follow our tips as we teach you how to build the perfect campfire in the Ocala National Forest.

Create Your Fire Bed

Safety comes first when you create a campfire. Camping sites like those in the Ocala National Forest in North Central Florida have designated fire areas that you must use. Select a site away from trees, bushes and plants. Create a fire bed on bare earth with no live or dead grass around it. Dry grass, branches and bark catch fire easily so make sure you find a nice bare spot. If you can’t find a good bed area, make your own by digging and raking away all grass and plant material.

Once you’ve cleared a bed area, gather some dirt and place it in the center of your clean fire bed. Form the dirt into a firm platform that is 3- to 4-inches thick.

Hunt for Wood

Once your fire bed is ready, it’s time to gather your wood. You are looking for the following types of acceptable wood:

  • Tinder: Materials like dry bark, dry leaves, dead grass and wood shavings make up your tinder. Tinder catches fire easily and this is the wood you need to get that fire started.
  • Kindling: After the fire gets started with tinder wood, kindling helps to keep the fire going. Kindling consists of small twigs and branches that are laid on top of your tinder wood. Look for wood about the width of a pencil. Make sure it’s dry or it won’t burn easily.
  • Fuel wood: Fuel wood comes next on the pile and it keeps your fire hot and makes the fire stay consistent. Look for branches of wood that are about the width of your forearm or wrist to act as fuel wood.

When gathering wood for your fire, look for wood that snaps and breaks easily. If the wood bends, it’s too wet and your fire will become smoky. Dry wood always burns best.

Hint: Collect double the amount of tinder, kindling and fuel wood as you think you will need because you will go through a lot of kindling when you start your fire.

lighting a campfire
When gathering wood for your campfire, look for wood that snaps and breaks easily.

How to Lay Your Fire

There are many different ways to lay your fire. The most common types of fires include:

  • Teepee fires, which involve placing your tinder in a bundle in the middle of your campfire site and forming a teepee around it with your kindling.
  • Lean-to fires are created by sticking a long piece of kindling into the ground at a 30-degree angle with the end of the stick pointing into the wind. Then tinder is placed underneath the support stick and kindling is scattered around the fire.
  • Log cabin fires create a small teepee, with wood being stacked on top of it like a real-life version of Lincoln Logs being stacked on top of the teepee.

How to Put Out Your Fire

You’ve enjoyed the fire but now it’s time to extinguish it properly. Follow these steps:

  • Have a bucket of water near your campfire at all times for safety reasons. This bucket of water should be sprinkled around carefully to extinguish all the embers. Don’t dump it all in one spot.
  • Stir the embers with a stick or shovel as you sprinkle the water on the fire to completely extinguish the fire.
  • Keep adding water until you no longer feel heat coming from the ashes.
  • Scoop up the ashes and return the land as you found it, spreading the ashes around the campsite to dispose of them. Then replace the dirt and sod you dug up with a shovel.

Fire Extinguish Tip: It takes at least 20 minutes to put out and monitor a fire being extinguished before you can leave the campfire unattended, so plan your time accordingly.

tips for building a campfire Pinterest image
A roaring campfire makes the campground perfect during cool evenings.

Monitor and Adhere to Fire Restrictions

Always monitor state and local fire restrictions. When camping in North Central Florida in the Ocala National Forest, there is a risk of wildfires due to strong winds and drought conditions. Check if you are in an area with campfire restrictions, listed in the alerts and notices and forest orders.

Read the campfire restrictions that exist year-round in the Ocala National Forest so you know the approved and non-approved fires and where you can make a campfire. Always keep a watch on fire danger ratings too.

Plan a Trip Along the St. Johns River

Make sure to spend some time enjoying the St. Johns River when you visit North Central Florida. Embrace and enjoy the river by renting a boat at Castaways on the River. The marina on the river can handle all of your boat rental needs. We also offer comfortable cottages and motel rooms so you can stay awhile. Call Castaways on the River at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental adventure today.

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