Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – December 2018

GON Staff | November 28, 2018

Saltwater:Inshore: Capt. David Newlin reports, “Winter has arrived on the Georgia coast. Trout, redfish, black drum, sheepshead and stripers are biting. In my area, it seems that most of the fish have started moving into a little deeper water as the water temps have steadily dropped. By the first of December, the water should be in the low 60s. Fishing a slip-cork rig in December, I always like to fish a cork that can handle a 1-oz. sinker. With the heavier sinker, you can fish a lot deeper depths that are needed to catch fish in December. In a lot of spots, I will set my cork to depths between 10 and 20 feet deep with a live shrimp. On Nov. 20, I caught trout fishing a shrimp around 15 feet deep in a spot that was 20 feet deep. A lot of the redfish can still be caught in a few feet of water, but almost all of the trout have moved into deeper water. Try different depths until you start catching fish. A lot of trout can be caught on the bottom in December. I prefer to fish a cork rig if possible. A lot of trout and redfish have moved way up the rivers to the usual winter hangouts. The recent rains will probably put a lot of freshwater in some areas and push the fish back a little. A lot of freshwater is coming down the Ogeechee right now. I have caught largemouth, redfish, trout and stripers in the same place on several recent trips. A lot of trout and redfish can be caught on different types of jigs during the winter months. They seem to hit artificials much better when the water gets into the low 60s and upper 50s and shrimp start getting scarce. I have caught a lot of fish recently on a Z-Man Trout Trick jig. I like a chartreuse or pink jig with a lot of glitter in it. Fish a jig real slow and close to the bottom. Black drum have been caught in good numbers fishing live and dead shrimp on the bottom. My better spots are 10 to 20 feet deep with a lot of structure on the bottom. Trees, dock pilings, concrete pieces and any junk on the bottom seems to help hold drum in an area. The sheepshead bite is starting to turn on. They will bite right on through the coldest part of winter. As always, a fiddler crab fished just off the bottom will usually work. The striper fishing in the Ogeechee River has been real good. Most of my fishing has been between Highway 17 and the 7 Mile Bend area. The smaller stripers have been eating up live shrimp and jigs. When trying to target the bigger stripers, a live mullet or a larger artificial should work. I like a Rapala in a real bright blue, green or red color pattern. Fish the creek mouths on the outgoing tide. A yellow bucktail jig is also one of my go-to favorites on Ogeechee stripers. The limit in saltwater is two fish with a 22-inch minimum size. The stripers will bite right on through the coldest part of the winter. December fishing can be good on the coast. Just slow down, and fish a little slower and deeper.” Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “During this time, all fish from spotted seatrout to flounder to redfish are doing what they do best, and that’s bulking up for cold weather patterns. It’s also a great time to be a weather watcher. Normally the inshore bite will turn on big time when there is an approaching cold front. The fish usually feed hard 18 to 24 hours before the big weather change. The best natural bait is going to be live shrimp, and the best artificial baits are those that imitate them. Live shrimp will work under popping or traditional adjustable corks or just plain naked, meaning using a hook only. Most spotted seatrout, redfish and flounder will take a chance on a shrimp, even if it does looks a little fishy. From a fish’s point of view, the shrimp is easy to catch, easy to eat and easy on the stomach. And once you get the bite going on the live or fresh dead shrimp, it’s easy to change to artificials, such as DOAs. When it comes to getting the redfish bite, I suggest pitching copper penny, baby bass or ice flukes made by Strike King (ZTOO). Rig it weedless, and cast right into the grass. When using artificial baits during cooler water times, please remember to work your lure slower than normal. When you can’t purchase or catch your own live shrimp, the mud minnow is easy to catch, and it’s hardy bait. A single mud minnow works great and is usually good several times, even after hits, misses or catches. If one minnow lipped hooked under a popping or adjustable cork doesn’t work, I suggest adding another one. Using double-up baits can turn an unlikely bite on. When the water gets cooler, it is much clearer, which means if you can see the fish, it most likely can see you, too. When approaching your fishing spot, do so slowly. I suggest offering the least amount of noise and impact. Once arriving, slowly drop your anchor quietly. For those fishermen who prefer darkness over daylight fishing, this is the perfect time of the year to give it a try. Most all isolated dock lights will hold the interest of some sort of bait, which in turn brings on one heck of a topwater bite. Best baits are DOAs artificial shrimp patterns rigged on 1/8- to 1/4-oz. jig heads.”

Offshore Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “December is a grand month for those fishermen who love a light-tackle fishing experience. Artificial reefs are holding sheepshead, black drum, trophy redfish, flounder and cold water sharks. Fish put these areas on their list of places to school up to bulk up for winter migrations.   Best baits for sheepshead, black drum and trophy redfish are going to be the purple back fiddler, juvenile rock crabs and green mussels. Small pieces of shrimp will also work. These fish love anything wrapped in a shell or the meat that is removed from them. Flounder are known for situating themselves on the outskirts of the structure while waiting for that prefect meal. Best baits for the old flounder are jumbo mud minnows or small sand perch placed on a Carolina-style bottom rig. Placement of this bait is simple. Cast to the outskirts of the structure, set drag to medium and place the rod in the holder. Another baiting-up method for flounder is to take a 3-oz. jig head, bait it with live finger mullet or any live bait that is about the size of a cigar, and put it on the bottom. Or you can butterfly a small fish, which when introduced back in to the water, offers up two working, flowing tails. The best thing about jig-head fishing is that you can move your bait along the bottom, and it imitates a small fish. When a small fish is skirting close to the bottom, it forms somewhat of a sand storm. When you get a hit, don’t try to set your hook because flounder are known for being slow bait takers. If you miss the set, I suggest quickly dropping your bait back and letting it just sit. If sharking is on your mind, bring along some squid or cut up some freshly caught fish. Another great bait when targeting shark is going to be the belly strip cut from a sheepshead. All you have to do is cut the belly out of the fish, leaving you the best part to eat. Hook it up, and put it on the bottom. It’s best to try to place this bait as far on the outskirts of the structure as possible. Please always check state and federal regulations for any closers and size limit.  For state:, and for federal regs, go to Large summer trout can also be found schooling on the artificial reefs, and some of these fish are in the 20-inch-plus size range. The best bait is going to be small pieces of cut fish, squid and cigar minnows. The grouper season is open until Dec. 31, 2018. Large gags are known for migrating into shallow water during this time of the year. In the shallow department, artificial reefs located in 35 to 90 feet of water are stopping off staging places. The best places to fish on the artificial reefs are the places where you have wrecks, such as the barges, battle tanks, subway cars, ships, tugs and dredges. These fish prefer these areas because they can move in and out of structure feeding on those smaller fish that feel safe inside. When targeting grouper, I always suggest using pinfish, ruby red lips, sand perch and rock bass.”

Savannah Snapper Banks: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “The bottom fishing in 90 to 100 feet of water can be very interesting because you really never know what you might catch. Best bottom fishing baits are going to be small pieces of squid, cut fish and fresh or frozen cigar minnows. If you happen up on a school of baits, meaning schooling cigar minnows or Spanish sardines, I suggest getting out a sabiki bait rig. These types of baits are known for triggering a fish bite that might have not existed. Fresh dead/halves of minnows in most cases work great. All of these baits bring on the attentions of black sea bass, vermilion snapper, white grunts, porgy, triggerfish and other colorful bottom biters. If you are looking for a bigger bottom bite, I suggest dropping a lipped-hooked ruby red lip, sand perch, vermilion or rock bass down to the bottom. These baits attract amberjack, grouper and red snapper. Before heading out, I always suggest checking with for current offshore regulations.”

Bluewater fishing: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “Our black fin tuna run is on wide open, and this is one fish that can offer you a strong fight. You can find these fish holding over the ledges in 180 to 250 feet of water, or you might just happen to find a school holding in the upper water column that has rounded up a school of bait. Best lures that fit into what is called old school are cedar plugs pre-soaked in menhaden oil. I am suggesting the actual plug that is made with cedar showing and not the ones that are painted. These plugs absorb the menhaden oil while holding it longer when trolling producing lots of happy fishy trails. It is a known fact that menhaden oil attracts the attention of fish. For those fishermen who have to troll with real bait, I suggest Ilander Trackers rigged with dink ballyhoo baits. The trick here is to rig the Ilander Trackers with 60-lb. test fluorocarbon and small, short-shank extra strong 4/0 to 5/0 hooks. This style rig works well when rigging with dink (small) ballyhoo. For those fishermen who love to do a little jigging, once you find the tuna, drop your lure to this depth and work it. Best deep-water jigs are those butterfly-type designs from 3 to 6 ounces ( For the best jigging results, I suggest using braid as the main line and a fluorocarbon leader above the jig.”

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