Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report August 2016

GON Staff | July 28, 2016

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “The last few weeks has been the best July fishing that I have seen in years. Big redfish, big trout, black drum, tarpon and big sharks have been caught this week. The redfish have been almost everywhere. Yesterday afternoon we caught more than 50 in less than two hours, from 12 inches to 38 inches. We had four big fish over 30 inches. I have had a lot of days with 20 to 30 redfish. The big fish have been the real surprises. Some years we don’t catch a lot of big redfish in July. I have released 40 fish over 28 inches already this month. August should be really good. By the 15th, a lot of slot limit fish should be available. Fish a live shrimp whatever way you like—on the bottom or under a cork—and you should be able to catch redfish. The redfish have been 12 miles up the river all the way out to the ocean. The trout bite has been good. A lot of fish from 10 inches to 20 inches and a few bigger trout. I have had some days that we caught 100 plus trout to keep 25 or 30 good fish. Several days we have caught big trout chasing pogies and glass minnows on the surface. Trout, bluefish, jack crevalle and blacktip sharks all mixed up in the same schools. When the cork went under, you had no idea what was on the line, that was fun fishing. During August, watch for some surface activity. If you see any, throw a live shrimp, a gold spoon or topwater plug right in the middle of it, and see what bites. The old reliable rig of a live shrimp under a slip cork rig is almost always your best bet for catching trout. Early morning will be the best fishing in August. Look for trout around all the usual oyster shell mounds, creek mouths and on the beaches. Black drum are still showing up in good numbers. Try fishing a dead shrimp on the bottom around an oyster-covered bank that drops off quickly to about 10 to about 15 feet the last hour of the out-going tide. The drum have mostly been in the sound, but they will move up the rivers very shortly. They should bite good in August. Flounder have been a welcome by-catch most days we have caught from three to six on live shrimp and poly-wogs. The banks with a lot of white shells on the bottom have had a lot of flounder. When you catch one, fish the area hard and there are usually a couple more in the area. The whiting and croaker bite has been wide open in some places. Several places off the beaches we have caught a lot of whiting while tarpon and shark fishing. Put a No. 2 hook on the bottom with a small piece of shrimp and start catching. The croaker have been all over the sound. A lot of small ones in some places and a good number of 10- to 12-inch croaker in other places. A good way to keep a kid happy and catch supper, they are small but cook up for some good eating. The big fish invasion is happening right now. Every July and August, tarpon and big sharks get thick all over the northern part of the Georgia coast. Most of the tarpon that have been caught so far have been in the ocean right off the beaches. The rivers should get invaded in August. The best bait for catching a tarpon is a pogie (menhaden), dead or live. In the real muddy water, I like to put a dead one on the bottom. If the water is clear enough to see 2 feet, I like a live pogie either freelined or under a Cajun Thunder Blue Water Cork. Look for tarpon rolling on the surface. If you see them, you can catch them. The blacktip sharks have been around in good numbers. Look for a big school of pogies, and float a dead pogie under a cork around the baitfish. I have completely exhausted my fishermen with sharks a few mornings lately. The blacktips are almost the ultimate shark fighting machine—they jump and fight hard. In August, fish close to the ocean for big sharks. Up the river there will be plenty of 3-footers and a few big ones. Chum heavy, fish fresh fish on the top and bottom, and catching sharks should be easy all month. Go fishing early, and get home before the afternoon thunderstorms get cranked up.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “It is all about bait, mate! You really have to pull out all of the stops when you want to turn fishing into catching this month. It’s best to fish early because this is one of those months that once the sun gets straight up, the fisherman-frying process begins. Redfish, spotted sea trout, flounder, whiting and sharks can be caught just about anywhere while fishing the sounds and beachfronts. The best baits are going to be the lively ones such as shrimp, mud minnows, finger mullet and small yellow tail. The reason live baits are a good idea is that they do all the work for you. All you have to do is cast a rigged bait into considered strike zone and possibly re-adjust the float’s depth. The best news about these baits is most of them can be caught by you. It’s also a good time to catch your own bait. The secret to casting and catching shrimp, which could also turn into an afternoon shrimp cocktail, is a simple one. I suggest working the grassline as the shrimp first come out on the falling tide and when they start heading back to the safety of the marsh on the rising tide. I also suggest making sure that the grassline that you are working has a mud bottom and not oyster rakes. For those who prefer to use artificial only, bites can also happen. I always like using DOA shrimp patterns during this time. You can use them as rigged straight out of the package. Best method here is to tie a 3- to 4-foot leader of 12- to 20-lb. test to a popping cork and cast into place. Let the tide take the float, and come up with your own popping-the-float sequence. It’s best to fish this rig in 5 to 6 feet of water. Here’s another tip when fishing more than 6 feet of water, I suggest using a small adjustable float rig with a 2/0 Kahle hook. Remove the DOA weight and hook from artificial shrimp pattern, then balance this bait on your Kahle hook. I am always talking about using live shrimp as bait and all of the advantages that come along with it. All fish like the taste of a shrimp, and in some case it doesn’t even have to be alive to get their attention. Our inshore captains have come to one conclusion when it comes to ways of live shrimp. It seems that the shrimp that you catch in your cast net are much hardier and will live longer in your livewell, especially during these hot water times. Live shrimp that are caught while using a dragging net don’t live as long. It has come to our attention that most of these shrimp do not make it back to their full moving potential, especially after the shock of being caught this way. So you end up with a lot of fresh dead almost live shrimp. And by the way, these over the top hot water conditions are also a big killing factor. I have always said the hardier the bait the better the fish bite. There is also another plus when casting your net to catch you own live shrimp, and I call it by-catch bait opportunity. While casting for shrimp, you will also catch some great juvenile baitfish. Your bi-catch can be anything from a mullet to a pin fish to a menhaden to many other small baitfish. I suggest throwing these fry’s right into your livewell with the shrimp. The absolute best way to rig up your by-catch is to lip hook it. And you can present it under a popping cork or a traditional adjusted float. All baits from live shrimp to small fish work great when placed on the bottom with a Carolina-style rig. If you don’t want to hold your rod, I suggest using a small circle hook, which will almost ensure a more solid hookup. When using a Caroling rig, I suggest casting your bait into to place, letting it sit at least 2 to 3 minutes, then raise your rod, reel about 5 turns, let it sit, wait and repeat. Whatever you do, bring a dip net to this most likely flounder catching rodeo! It is a known fact that most flounder are lost at the boat while trying to lift them into the boat without using the aid of a dip net. The only good thing about losing a fish at the boat is that it is easier to say it was a big one for sure!”

Nearshore: Capt. Judy Helmy reports, “Ocean menhaden have arrived and can be caught while casting your net around beachfronts and as far out as 3 miles into the ocean. The secret to finding porgies, also known as menhaden, is to keep an eye to the sky for diving pelicans. Menhaden are called pelican candy! This is the one bait that works when used live or dead. It also works when used as chum, meaning cut up or smashed up. When using live menhaden, I suggest light tackle rigs made with stinger hooks fished around the beachfronts and shipping channels. Big kings are known for migrating into these areas during the month of August. Steep drops such as those located in shipping channels like the Savannah River channel hold lots of bait standing opportunities. King and Spanish mackerel know exactly how this feeding drill works. Slow trolling in these areas usually yield big king mackerel bites. If you see Spanish mackerel on the surface, it’s very likely that large kings are holding in the outskirts. Another good baiting option is to catch a Spanish mackerel, rig it up quick, and let it free swim.”

Offshore: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Trolling for Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and barracuda is very good in August around the artificial reefs. The best trolling lures for Spanish mackerel are going to be the ever-popular 0 and 00 Clarke spoons. Or any sort of pitching lure that once on the retrieve looks and acts like a glass minnow or juvenile squid. The best trolling spoons for king mackerel are 1 1/2- to 4 1/2-inch Drone spoons. I have always preferred old school silver as the best color. However, that is only because that was the only color they used to have. So if you want to pull a colored Drone, I suggest black, chartreuse, red or royal blue—with or without flash bling. When it comes to getting that prefect barracuda bite, it can happen while trolling for Spanish and king mackerel. However, this toothy monster will also attack at and hit trolled surgical tubes. We like using Sea Striker cuda tube CT-12 (12 inch) surgical tube with 2/0 heavy-duty saltwater treble and CT-14 (14-inch) rigged with two hooks. And once you see how these tube lures are put together, you then can purchase 6 feet package SST6-color or 24 feet bulk pack SSTB-color and build your own. This is the way us charter boat captains go. The tubes come in green, red, pink and yellow. And the best news is you could catch just about any kind of mid-column to surface swimming fish with this crazy acting tube lure. The bottom bite at the Savannah Snapper Banks is good during August. However, to catch big fish you have to use the right big bait. Larger fish such as grouper, red snapper, cubera snapper, amberjack, and cobia want live bait. A fisherman needs to use live baits such as menhaden, sand perch, rock bass, scup, pin fish and ruby red lips. It’s best to make sure that your livewell circulation pump is working properly and that the filter is clean. You want your bait as lively and not shocked. When a fish is shocked, it basically looks stressed and has a white milky appearance. I suggest lip hooking any of these bait with a 13/0 circle hook rigged up on a Carolina style rig. As far as weight, I always use a 3- to 8-oz. egg weight and an 8- to 30-foot 80- to 100-lb. test monofilament leader. I suggest sending this rig to the bottom, which anchors the line on the bottom. This type of rig also sometimes referred as a Carolina-style rig allows the bait to seemly swim free putting it right in the big fish’s strike zone. As far as where to put your bait, well, at this point it’s all about location, location, location! And of course before heading out, I always suggest giving a look-see. There are a few closures such as genuine red snapper, which is closed to harvest and possession. To make a copy of the regulations page for federal waters please go to I suggest if you are fishing offshore, whether it at the artificial reefs all the way out to the blue waters of the stream, you should have a copy of these rules and regulations on your boat. And you also need to know that state and federal regulations are not always the same—make sure you know the difference.”

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