Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report April 2017

GON Staff | March 29, 2017

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “March has thrown every kind of weather you can think of at us. The water warmed up to 68 degrees and then crashed back down to 56 and was back up to around 64 on March 26. A few more days of warm weather should warm it up to the high 60s. The spring trout run is just starting to heat up. Over the last few days, some really big trout have been caught, with a few fish over 4 pounds, which is a big trout. During April, trout should show up all over the sounds. The usual live shrimp cork rigs should catch plenty of trout. Some topwater action should start as soon as the water hits 70 degrees. All of the local marinas have a good supply of live shrimp right now. The redfish bite has been good and should get a lot better over the next few weeks. I have been catching all my redfish around the bigger oyster shell mounds in the Ossabaw Sound area. A live shrimp fished a foot or 2 under a cork will almost always work. I found a school of redfish a few days ago chasing bait on a sandbar and caught a quick limit. If you see fish feeding, go to them. That won’t happen every day, but it is nice when it does. The inshore sheepshead bite is still going strong. Sheepshead can be caught all year if you will fish for them. As always, a fiddler crab is usually your best bait choice. The whiting run is getting off to a good start. Over the next few weeks, they should be real abundant. Last year I caught over a thousand whiting the first two weeks of April. This is easy fishing. Find a sandy bottom out in the sound from 6 to 14 feet of water, and fish a small piece of shrimp on the bottom. Usually the last half of the outgoing is best. The sandbars off the beaches are sometimes loaded with whiting. The catfish bite in the Ogeechee has to get mentioned. The area between Highway 17 and Fort McAllister seems to be crawling with catfish. I have always used a piece of shrimp on the bottom. This is easy fishing, and they are great eating, too. April should be a good month of fish catching on the coast.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “In April, bait shops should start to catch and carry live shrimp. With live shrimp in the well, traditional popping corks are going to be your best bet for finding and catching fish. If a redfish, spotted seatrout or flounder gets close to this bait, they will eat it. Another way to present live shrimp is to ‘fish naked,’ meaning light leader, small split-shot and small hook. Hook your shrimp up under the horn, and cast into place. For inshore fishermen who like to catch their own live shrimp to use for bait, I suggest giving deep-hole casting a try. You just might catch some eating-size shrimp, too! If you can’t catch or purchase live shrimp, go with mud minnows, one of the hardiest natural baits that a fisherman can use. This bait can live through the cast, landing and retrieval process. They come in all sizes, from real small to large. All fish love them, from the redfish to trout to the flounder. During this time of the year, there isn’t much live shrimp, so mud minnows make a great substitute. In some cases, especially after the warming trend takes place, fish will hit the shrimp over the minnows. However, the mud minnow is very high up on the list as one of the best baits when targeting flounder. Put the minnow on the bottom because that’s where the hard-to-catch flounder is going to be lurking and hiding. Some say it’s too early to expect any sort of a bottom bite in regards to the flounder. However, there are some fishermen who have caught this fish year-round. Plain old bottom fishing in the sound begins to get good in April. The sounds come alive with everything from whiting to sharks to blue fish to stingray to trophy redfish to cobia to other strange creatures. It’s fun just dropping down to the bottom and waiting to see what just might get on your hook. When the fish quit biting, I always suggest changing your bait. Using small pieces of shrimp on light-tackle rigs, so even the smaller fish offer some nice action. We have found that smaller fish also get tired of the same old bait plan, so we came up with the ‘Captain Judy’s whiting cocktail.’ It is a change-up bait, as well as alternative bait. Fishing with small pieces of cut shrimp will work for a while. However, adding a small piece of whiting fillet sweetens the bait and offers enough of a change to turn the bite back on. The smaller fish that you just caught can be used live or freshly dead as a big-fish option. You can also cut them up in steaks just like you do a loaf of bread. With a little heavier rod/reel combo and terminal tackle, you can use any of these baits and drift them out with a float or fish them right on the bottom. Believe me this will definitely bring on the bigger fish bite. At this point, this is all up to you. For rigs when fishing the sound, no matter the size of fish that you are targeting, I suggest the Carolina-style classic—egg sinker used on main line and then tie on the swivel, then the leader, and then the hook. For the smaller fish, I suggest 10- to 20-lb. test monofilament line or up to 50-lb. test braid main line. For the leader, I suggest 15- to 20-lb. test fluorocarbon or just regular monofilament line. The best hook style is going to be kahle No. 4 or No. 6. Standard ‘J’ thin-tinned hooks in the same size range are also good. Just remember if the hook is too big, it can detour even a small bite. When you are changing from small pieces of shrimp to steaks or whole fish as bait, I suggest using 30- to 50-lb. test monofilament or 50- to 80-lb. test braid as main line. Use a little heavier rod/reel combo. When setting up your Carolina rig for the larger bite, use 40- to 60-lb. test line and a circle hook from size 9/0 to 14/0, or a standard J from 6/0 to 8/0. For the egg sinker, I suggest from 1 to 8 ounces. The currents in the sound can get strong!”

Nearshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Cobia has been closed for the 2017 fishing season in federal waters. However, it is open in state waters and is governed by Georgia DNR. Cobia have to be 33 inches fork length to keep, with a bag limit of two. Please always check out state regs ( and federal ( before going saltwater fishing.”

Offshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “When bottom fishing, you could catch black sea bass, flounder, blue fish, white bone porgy, summer trout, cobia and other biters. When it comes to topwater fish, normally large Spanish mackerel have arrived in April and are feeding on any baits that they can find from on the surface to right on the bottom. Just because you can’t see the mackerel on the surface certainly doesn’t mean they are not here. The best bait is going to be the ever-popular small to medium Clark Spoon. Troll the spoons deep, or pitch them right over the structure. Bring along a suitable dip net because you most likely are going to need it to land this fish. Plain old bottom fishing at the artificial reefs have been a little challenging. I have found that artificial reefs are holding lots of black fish to catch, but not many are legal to keep. Please know that a black sea bass has to be at least 13 inches fork length to keep, and there’s a bag limit of seven per person. Here’s a tip that just might get you a bigger fish on the artificial reefs. There is an old saying that my father used to use. He always said, ‘The bigger the bait, the bigger the fish!’ I am not talking about loading your hook up with bait such as squid or cut fish either. The best bait to use when in this situation is a small black fish, sand perch or rock-fish steak—cut it like a loaf of bread, remove all the appendages, remove half the scales and center this strong hunk of meat on your hook. Yes, the smaller fish will pick at it removing the leftover scales and outside skin but will not usually get the hook. All of the feeding and picking from the smaller fish will bring attention to your bait, which lures in a much bigger fish. All that’s left for the bigger fish is to completely swallow the bait because jealously and greed tends to make a fish stupid. Another fish that frequents the artificial reefs in April is the little tunny, and they can come in sizes from 1 to 20 pounds. This fish offers a strong fight on just about any size tackle that you care to use. One sure-fire way to catch this fish is to pull a cedar plug way, way back—about a distance of 200-feet plus. I know that sounds like letting out a lot of line, but for some reason when the boat approaches, this fish dives, and right after the pass the entire school surfaces again. If you are not going to eat this fish, please return unharmed back to the wild. For offshore bottom-fishing at the Savannah Snapper Banks, April is when we fishermen know we have exactly one more month before grouper season opens. It opens on May 1, 2017. Offshore fishermen still make way to the banks to take advantage of the incredible amount of large bottom fish available, such as vermilion snapper, also known as B-liners, white grunt, triggerfish, amberjack, red porgy, genuine red snapper (closed, catch/release only) and white bone. As far as topwater fish, cobia and king mackerel can certainly be caught while plain old bottom fishing. Please remember, in 2017 cobia season is closed, meaning this fish is catch and release only! When bottom fishing, cut squid, frozen/fresh cigar minnows whole or pieces, all sizes of fish steaks and cut fish are great. By using any or all of these suggested baits, fish whether they are bottom dwellers or not will come a calling—or should I say a biting!”

Blue Water: Capt. Judy reports, “The water temps are a little warmer than normal. This could make the blue-water bite earlier. If it’s a calm day, I suggest making the run. For tuna, dolphin, wahoo, mako shark and billfish, the 70-mile run is definitely worth it. For bait, I suggest single-hooked, chin-weighted dink ballyhoo and cedar plugs. For a large bite, I suggest Ilander lures rigged with horse ballyhoo. This brings on great possibilities for a serious wahoo bite. High-speed trolling should be put on your list of things to do to catch big fish. While heading to the Stream, you cover lots of water, so you might as well get the best out of it. Dragging a couple of high-speed lures is a great idea. While at the blue water of the Stream, there is another option—give bottom fishing a try. With small pieces of squid, you catch football vermilion, mega triggerfish, sand tile, knobbed porgy and fish not even listed in the identification booklet. All fishermen when targeting the snapper-grouper species have to use circle hooks. It’s the law! The good news about circle hooks is that all you have to do is get your bait to the bottom, a fish will eat it, try to swim off, and the fish will be hooked up. And in 150 to 220 feet of water, all of this eating and hooking up can happen before you can take the slack out of your line. I always suggest checking for current fishing regulations before heading offshore. The best website for up to date federal fishing regulations is”

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