Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – August 2018

GON Staff | August 1, 2018

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “July has been a good month for fishing. Tarpon, trout, redfish and flounder have all been caught lately. August is always the best month of tarpon fishing on the Georgia coast. The hotter the better for tarpon fishing. The channels just offshore and a lot of spots in the sounds and rivers will hold tarpon in August. Look for them rolling on the surface and chasing baitfish. If you are not seeing tarpon, you are usually in the wrong place. As always, a live pogie on the surface or a dead one on the bottom will usually work. The redfish bite should be red hot all the month of August. We have been catching hundreds of small redfish that are getting bigger every week. By the middle of August, a lot of them will be legal fish. I have been catching a lot of big redfish from 20 to 36 inches mixed in with the small ones. Try a 4-inch fish fillet when the small ones are thick, and a big one will usually find it. Smash the barbs on your hooks, and you will catch just as many redfish, and it makes releasing them much easier. Late August and September should be an easy time to catch a quick limit of redfish. Trout have come on strong during the last half of July. After the cold winter, trout catches were way off during the spring, but they have picked up nicely over the last few weeks. In August, trout will be out in the sounds and on the beaches. Look for the clearest water you can find. A live shrimp under a cork is your best bet. Early morning can have good topwater trout action in August. A red-and-white Zara Spook has been working good for me. Usually green, white or blue colors are the next best. When the small fish are real thick, try a 3-inch mullet under a cork with a 2-foot leader. Flounder have been in all their usual spots. On the outgoing tide,  I have been catching a lot of them. A shrimp floated under a cork just off the bottom works great. A white Gulp Swimming Mullet fished right on the bottom will catch a lot of flounder. August should be a good month for black drum and also for croaker. We have been catching a lot of hand-sized croaker fishing on the bottom with a small piece of shrimp. Croaker fishing is a great way to keep children interested in fishing; a fish a minute keeps their attention. August should be a great month to go trophy hunting or fishing for eating fish. It will be hot, so go early and get back by 1 or 2, and you can survive the heat.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “August is the month that separates the true fishermen from those who only claim to be. You really have to pull out all of the stops when you want to turn fishing into catching during this month. The old saying ‘early bird catches the worm’ really comes into play during 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. Don’t laugh about using small yellow tails as bait. When we had the grand freeze this past winter, large amounts of these fish were killed off, making them a lot more desirable as bait. The reason live baits are a good idea is that they do all the work for you. This just means their movement while rigged up gets the fish’s attention. All you have to do is cast the live bait into the strike zone and possibly re-adjust the float’s depth, but only if no hits occur after the float goes through the strike zone. A lot of fishermen like float fishing, and since I am a fisherman myself, I can tell you we all just love to see the sinking of the cork. The best news about these baits is most of them can be caught by you, and you might just have enough left over for supper. 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 artificials, I always like using DOA shrimp patterns during this time. You can use them rigged straight out of the package. The 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. When fishing in 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 the artificial shrimp pattern, and then I suggest balancing this bait on your hook, which while waving in the current will look just like the real deal. As I mentioned many times over, all fish like the taste of a shrimp, and in some cases, it doesn’t even have to be alive to get their attention. Our inshore captains have come to one conclusion when it comes to the 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 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 the ‘by-catch bait opportunity.’ While casting for shrimp, you will also catch some great juvenile baitfish. Your by-catch can be anything from a mullet to a pinfish 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 nearly always insure a more solid hook-up. When using a Caroling rig, I suggest casting your bait into place, letting it sit at least two to three minutes, and then raise your rod, reel about five turns, let it sit, wait and repeat. I suggest you 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.”

Nearshore: Capt. Judy Helmey 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 pogies is to keep an eye to the sky for diving pelicans. This is the one bait that works when used live or dead. It also works when used as chum. 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, hold lots of bait. 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. When fishing the Savannah river channel, please know that ships are much larger now, making the water they push and wakes made dangerous. Please beware!”

Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “It’s toothy monsters time! Trolling for Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and barracuda is very good during this time. The best trolling lures for Spanish mackerel are going to be the ever popular 0 and 00 Clark 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 3 1/2-inch Drone spoons. As far as best color, I have always preferred old school silver. However, that is only because that was the only color they used to have. 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 the Sea Striker Cuda Tube CT12 (12 inch) surgical tube with a 2/0 heavy-duty saltwater treble and the CT14 (14 inch) rigged with two hooks. Once you see how these tube lures are put together, you can then purchase a 6- or 24-foot package of surgical tubing and build your own. This is the way us charter boat captains go. The tubes come in green, red, pink and yellow colors. The best news is you could catch just about any kind of mid column to surface swimming fish with this crazy acting tube lure.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The bottom bite at the Savannah Snapper Banks is good during this time. 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 fishermen needs to use live baits, such as menhaden, sand perch, rock bass, scup, pinfish and ruby red lips. It’s best to make sure that your live-well 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 does look stressed and has a white milky appearance. I suggest lip hooking any of these baits 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 allows the bait to seemly swim free, putting it right in the big fish’s strike zone.”

Blue Water: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “It is a known fact that when the waters to the west become the same temperature as the blue waters of the stream, the topwater fish go on the hunt. You could find yourself hooking up a blue-water fish at the artificial reefs as easily as you could while fishing at the Savannah Snapper Banks. There have been a few sailfish sightings at the KC artificial buoy during the month of July. Now for those fishermen who just want to make that blue-water run, I suggest doing so. The live-bottom areas/ledges located in 150 to 200 feet of water are holding some large gags, scamps and red grouper. Best working large live baits are ruby red lips, sand perch, menhaden, vermilion snapper and rock bass. Also on the bottom are football-sized vermilion snapper, big trigger fish, sea bass and sand tilefish, and then there are those fish that we have never seen before. Whatever you do, don’t forget your deep-water identification book. The best bottom rig is going to be one made with double or triple 5/0 to 6/0 circle hooks. The best bait is going to be cut squid and fresh fish fillets. All you have to do is bait up, drop to the bottom, wait until the fish jumps on your hooks, and then try to reel them back to the top. Before heading out, I always suggest giving and look. There are a few closers, such as genuine red snapper, which is closed to harvest and possession. However, rumor has it that there could be some weekend days open during this month for genuine red snapper. Check this website out for current rules and regulations. I suggest if you are fishing offshore, whether at the artificial reefs or all the way out to the blue waters of the Stream, you should have a copy of the current 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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