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Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report April 2020

GON Staff | March 26, 2020

Saltwater: Capt. David Newlin reports, “We are still fishing as of March 22. Hopefully we will continue fishing as we go forward. The last few weeks we have caught a lot of redfish, whiting, sheepshead, trout and black drum. The water is around 69 degrees. At 70, everything usually starts to come alive in the coastal saltwater. The whiting bite has turned on and should keep getting better over the next few weeks. I have had several days this week that we have caught around 50 in an hour. Any sandbar in the sounds should have some whiting on it. Fish a small piece of shrimp on the bottom around 10 feet deep. A No. 2 hook and a 1-oz. sinker will usually do the trick. Fried fresh whiting are hard to beat. The redfish bite has been strong all winter and should keep on being good. I have caught a lot of fish from 18 to 34 inches this week. Most of my redfish action has been up in the smaller creeks. As the water warms, they will scatter all over the place. As usual, the best bait is a live shrimp. If you can’t get any, try dead shrimp, poly-wogs, mullet or fiddler crabs. Sheepshead fishing has been good inshore and offshore. Inshore find some trees, dock pilings or about anything that has barnacles growing on it. Fish a live fiddler crab real close to the structure. Offshore all the reefs in less than 60 feet of water should have sheepshead around them. Trout should get really turned on in the next few weeks. All the usual spring drops in the sounds should start holding some trout. We will catch some of the biggest trout of the year in April. A live shrimp under a slip cork should get the job done. April should be a good month for almost everything from whiting to big redfish. As the water warms up over the next few weeks, coastal Georgia waters should come to life with a little bit of everything. Hopefully we will be fishing. At the moment the Georgia coastal waters seem to be the safest pace in the state.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “With all the current fears lurking, I would like to say that we are still in full fishing operation. We are keeping our boats as clean as possible while following every virus cleaning protocol known. With the coronavirus being a concern to all, we appreciate anyone experiencing symptoms or not feeling well to please cancel your charter in advance. In April, bait shops start to carry live shrimp. Live shrimp presented under traditional adjustable floats from large to small and popping corks are going to be your best bet for not only locating, but catching fish. Another way to present live shrimp is to just fish naked, meaning light leader, small split-shot and small hook. Hook your shrimp under the horn and cast into place. Prior to  heading out, I suggest purchasing the Top Spot Fishing Map N232 for inshore and N229 for offshore. Go to www.offshoremapping.com/productcart/pc/Top-Spot-Fishing-Maps-c16.htm. During the month of April, the sounds come alive with whiting, sharks, bluefish, stingray, trophy redfish and cobia. 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, before making a move, change your bait. 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 an alternative bait. Fishing with small pieces of cut shrimp will work for a while. However, adding a small piece of whiting filet sweetens the bait and offers enough of a change to turn the bite back on. When the bait slows again, just go back to the small pieces of shrimp or just pieces of whiting filet. This is the time of year where that small fish can be turned into a big fish biting option. That smaller fish that you just caught can be used either whole live or fresh dead. You can also cut them up in steaks just like you do a loaf of bread. With a little heavier rod/reel combo, as well as terminal tackle, you can use any of these baits and drift them out with a float or fish them right on the bottom. For rigs when fishing the sound no matter the size of fish that you are targeting, I have to suggest the Carolina-style with an egg sinker used on main line. Then tie on the swivel and 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. As far as the leader, I suggest 15- to 20-lb. test fluorocarbon or just regular monofilament line. Best hook style is going to be kahle No. 4 or No. 6. I also like using Eagle Claw L197 G series circle hooks, which come in assorted sizes. Just remember that 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. I suggest using a little heavier rod/reel combo setup. When setting up your Carolina rig for the larger bite, I suggest using 40- to 60-lb. test line leader. For large fish, I suggest using a circle hook from size 9/0 to 14/0 or a standard j-hook from 6/0 to 8/0. As far as an egg sinker, I suggest having on board sizes from 1 to 8 ounces. The currents in the sound can get strong or not.” 

Offshore Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “When bottom fishing, you could catch black sea bass, flounder, bluefish, whitebone porgy, summer trout, cobia and other biters. When it comes to topwater fish, normally large Spanish mackerel have arrived. These fish feed on any baits that they can find staging from 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 a small to medium Clark spoon. I suggest either trolling the spoons deep or pitching them right over the structure. Great pitching lures are Got-Cha Lures and Johnson type minnow spoons. I suggest tying these lures directly to your main line. No leader needed because most hits delivered will occur from mid to the tail end of the lure. All of these lures are made of metal, which means the mackerel teeth will not penetrate. I will also suggest bringing along a suitable dip net, because you most likely are going to need it to land this fish. Another fish that frequents the artificial reefs at this time 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 pull a cedar plug way, way back. Cedar plugs come in assorted sizes and colors. When targeting fish in these areas at this time, I suggest pulling the smallest plug way back. This boils down to 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. So if you are pulling bait way back, hits are going to happen. Now if you are not going to eat this fish, please return unharmed back to the wild. However, I also suggest checking on the web for some suggested recipes for this fish. You just might be surprised, and I do know that little tunny are good when smoked. To further your opportunity for catching fish, I suggest make yourself a copy of Georgia’s artificial reefs: https://coastalgadnr.org/HERU/offshore.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Grouper season runs from May 1-Dec. 31. Offshore fishermen still make their way to the Banks this time to take advantage of the incredible amount of large bottom fish available, such as vermilion snapper, white grunt, triggerfish, amberjack, black sea bass, red porgy and white bone. As far as topwater fish, cobia and king mackerel can certainly be caught while plain old bottom fishing. When bottom fishing, cut squid, frozen/fresh whole or cut pieces of cigar minnows and cut fish are great working baits. By using any or all of these suggested baits, all fish, whether they are bottom dwellers or not, will come biting. As far as a 2020 red snapper season, the South Atlantic Fishery has not set dates for this as of yet. However, I suggest checking https://safmc.net website for the latest season openings and any current/new regulations.”

Blue water fishing: Offshore Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “For tuna, dolphin, wahoo, mako shark and bill fish, 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 high 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 should be next on your list. Here’s some websites with good lures: http://cscustomlures.com,  https://ballyhood.com, www.handmadetackle.com/wahoo-fishing-lures and www.afwfishing.com. While at the Stream, you can try bottom fishing. 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 and grouper species have to use circle hooks. All you have to do is to get your bait to the bottom. Fish will eat it, try to swim off, and the fish will be hooked up. I always suggest checking for current fishing regulations before heading offshore. The best website for up to date federal fishing regulations is http://www.safmc.net. For those fishermen who would like to receive my weekly fishing report, please email me at [email protected] and ask to be added. I would be happy to do so.”

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