St. Marks River

The St. Marks River heads just south of the "Red Hills" in east-central Leon County and flows as a small, black-water stream through a forested watershed to Natural Bridge just east of Woodville where the stream disappears underground. The river flows underground for approximately one mile and resurfaces as the St. Marks Spring Rise where it flows all the way to the Gulf. It is a much larger river at this point and it is crystal clear largely influenced by the number and volume of freshwater springs that support the River. The river supports a diverse freshwater plant community and is fishable from the "Rise" all the way to the Gulf.

The other interesting characteristic of the St. Marks is that it is tidally influenced with two high and low tides every 24 hour period. Not only does the tide stage influence fish feeding behavior, a host of saltwater species, that includes redfish and spotted sea trout, migrate up the river to the warmer fresh waters during the winter months of December through February. The river also stays relatively warm through the winter months due to its influence of so many warm springs feeding the river, which means that both freshwater and saltwater fish species are active and fishable throughout the winter.


Dominant freshwater fish caught from the St. Marks include the spotted sunfish or "stumpknocker", red-breast sunfish and bluegill. The river also supports a healthy population of Suwannee and largemouth black bass. Although I occasionally catch a largemouth bass, Suwannees dominate and are by far the more exciting black bass to catch. I also catch many "stumpknockers" and red-breast sunfish with an occasional huge bluegill taken. I typically fish the last two to three hours of a rising tide, preferably in the morning, as I find the fish feed much more predictably during this period. The profile of the river is such that a deep channel flows generally through the middle of the river with shallow shelves on both sides that extend into a wooded shoreline along its forested banks. It is along this shallow shelve and up under the forested overhang where you will find a dry fly, such as the Western Coachman, seldom ignored. My personal preference is to fish for the bream along the shoreline of this river, but I have fished with a friend during February when he chose to fish successfully for saltwater fish while I fished the shoreline for "stumpknockers" and red-breasts. He caught four species of saltwater fish while I landed bream till feeding slowed, interesting at the same tide stage for both groups of fish.

The St Marks River is beautiful clear water, abundant aquatic plant life and many species of birds, including bald eagles ospreys and prothonotary warblers. Manatees also are a common site while fishing this river. But its forested shorelines are especially beautiful during the spring season, when the redbuds, wild azaleas and wild crabapples and haws are blooming. This is another fishing adventure that should be on your list.



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