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Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report August 2019

GON Staff | July 24, 2019

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “The usual summer fishing is happening. Flounder, redfish, trout, tarpon and sharks are biting. The flounder bite has been the best I have seen in years. Around the last half of the outgoing tide they seem to be everywhere on some days. A live shrimp fished just off the bottom has worked great. A small mullet or pollywog will work good, too. In August, the flounder should be all over the sounds and rivers. When you catch one, work the area over hard. There should be a few more in the same area. This year’s redfish crop looks great. By the middle of August, catching a limit of legal reds should be simple. We are already catching a few 14-inch fish and hundreds of 10- to 13-inch reds. In a couple more weeks, these will almost all be legal fish. A good number of big redfish are being caught. I have caught a big fish almost every time I have looked for one. Big summer redfish are 30 to 36 inches long. The real big ones usually show up in September. A good many upper-slot-limit reds are being caught. They are 20- to 23-inch fish. The trout are all over the sound and beaches. Some really good ones are being caught along with a whole lot of smaller ones. Some days you will catch 50 or more to catch a limit of them. The major key to catching trout is finding clear water. Some days finding clear enough water can be a problem. Usually right around the top of the high tide or the bottom of low tide you can find a clear spot or two. Knowing where to find the clear water spots is very helpful. The trout bite should keep getting better from now through October. I catch a lot of fish on the bottom during the hot summer. Find a deep creek bend and put a shrimp on the bottom with a simple slip-sinker rig and a No. 1 2X long-shank hook on it. I like to fish a dead shrimp on one and a live shrimp on one and see which works best. When the water is dirty, a dead shrimp seems to work best. Black drum, trout, redfish, whiting, croaker and a bunch of other fish can be caught this way. Bring some extra hooks because you will catch some sting rays. Just cut the hook off. A sting ray’s sting is very painful, so a 15-cent hook isn’t worth getting stung. Always the best three months of fishing inshore on the Georgia coast are August, September and October. The white shrimp bait situation looks good. They will be everywhere next month. The big tarpon and sharks are here. A lot of tarpon are being caught in all the usual places. There has been a lot of them off the beaches and a lot in the usual tide rips in the sounds. A live pogy or mullet will usually work. Look for the tarpon rolling on the surface and exploding schools of baitfish. Sharks seem to be everywhere. Put some fresh fish on the bottom and wait. It shouldn’t take long to get a bite. August fishing can be hot for fish bites and sunshine. Go early and get back around 1 p.m. before it gets hot. There should be plenty of eating fish and big, arm-stretching fish.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “It is all about  the bait, mate! August is the month that separates the true fishermen from those who only claim to be. It’s best to fish early. 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. This just means their movement while rigged up gets the fish’s attention. All you have to do is cast the rigged bait into considered strike zone and possibly re-adjust the float’s depth, but only if no hits occur after the float drifts by. A lot of fishermen like float fishing. We all love to see the sinking of the cork. The secret to casting and catching shrimp 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. Make sure the grassline you are working has a mud bottom and not oyster rakes. However, last month proved to us inshore fishermen that live shrimp were hard to purchase and catch. The shrimp just are not being found in the creeks where we normally catch them. So our captains have been depending on live mud minnows and finger mullet as their go-to baits. Peanut menhaden is also another go-to live bait that works great at this time of the year. However, menhaden is not as hardy as the finger mullet and mud minnow. Since July was a bad shrimp-catching month, we are hoping August will be better. Don’t waste all of your fish day trying to catch a darn shrimp. Give it a few tries, and move on. I am always talking about using live shrimp as bait and all of the advantages that come along with it. 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 caught while using a dragging net don’t live as long. Most of these shrimp do not make it back to their full moving potential, especially after the shock of being caught this way. You end up with a lot of almost-live or dead shrimp. 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. Throw these 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 hook-up. When using a Caroling rig, I suggest casting your bait into place, letting it sit at least two to three minutes, 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.  For those who prefer to use artificial, 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. 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. For instance: single pop of the cork, pause, double pop of the cork, pause, and then repeat. Once you trigger the fish’s interest with your sequence of pops, not only can bites happen, but you might just be able to call when and where a solid hit might occur. It’s best to fish this rig in 5 to 6 feet of water. When fishing in more than 6 feet of water, use a small, adjustable float rig with a 2/0 kahle hook. Remove the DOA weight and hook from the artificial shrimp, and then balance this bait on your hook, which while waving in the current will look just like the real deal.”

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, also known as menhaden, is to look for diving pelicans. Menhaden are 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 (Savannah River Channel) hold lots of fish. King and Spanish mackerel know exactly how this feeding drill works. Slow trolling in these areas usually yields 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. Trolling for Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and barracuda is very good during this time.  Best trolling lures for Spanish mackerel are going to be the ever-popular 0 and 00 Clark Spoon or any sort of pitching lure that once on the retrieve looks and acts like a glass minnow or juvenile squid. Best trolling spoons for king mackerel are 1 1/2- to 4 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. 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 trolled surgical tubes. We like using the 12-inch Sea Striker Cuda Tube with a 2/0 heavy-duty saltwater treble and a 14-inch Cuda Tube rigged with two hooks. Once you see how these tube lures are put together, you can then purchase bulk packs and build your own. This is the way us charter boat captains go. The tubes come in green, red, pink and yellow colors. 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.” 

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The bottom bite at the Savannah Snapper Banks is good during. 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. Best live baits are menhaden, sand perch, rock bass, scup, pinfish 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 does look 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 monofilament leader of 80- to 100-lb. test. I suggest sending this rig to the bottom, which anchors the line on the bottom. This type of Carolina-style rig allows the bait to seemly swim free while putting it right in the big fish’s strike zone.”

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