Georgia Saltwater Fishing Report – December 2021

GON Staff | November 25, 2021

Saltwater: Inshore: Capt. Judy Helmey, of Miss Judy Charters, reports, “In December, fish catching can happen. Spotted seatrout, flounder and redfish are bulking up for those unpredictable but fast-on-the-way 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 at about 18 to 24 hours out 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. Most spotted seatrout, redfish and flounder will take a chance on a shrimp, even if it does looks a little fishy. And once you get the bite going on live or fresh dead shrimp, change to artificials, such as DOAs, Saltwater Assassins or a Berkley Gulp! Alive! When it comes to getting the redfish bite going, I suggest pitching copper penny, baby bass or ice flukes made by Strike King (ZTOO) rigged weedless and cast right into the grass. When using artificial bait during cooler water times, work your lure slower than normal since everything is moving a bit slower. When you can’t purchase or catch your own live shrimp, consider the mud minnow. A single mud minnow works great and is usually good several times even after hits, misses or catches. If one minnow lipped hooked either under a popping or adjustable cork doesn’t work, I suggest adding another one. Using double baits can turn an unlikely bite on. Here are two tips you can use. When the water gets cooler, it is much clearer, which means if you can see the fish, they 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 as possible. For those fishermen who prefer darkness over daylight, 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 and small Rapalas floating/diving lures. For fishermen who prefer the live bait, such as shrimp or mud minnows, they will also work. Best procedures for working a dock light can be quickly ascertained by pitching and retrieving a few lures in different directions or placing bait rigged under a cork up current of the light. Bites should be consistent for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then it will be time to move on or take a break to give the fish time to regroup uninterrupted.”

Capt. David Newlin reports, “Winter is here on the coast. Water temps were around 58 on Nov. 19. By December, we probably will be in the low 50s. Over the last few weeks, we have had some fantastic fishing days. I have had a lot of days with over 50 trout, redfish, black drum and stripers. Today we caught 19 stripers, 23 redfish and six trout in the Little Ogeechee River in the brackish water. We were fishing shrimp about 12 feet deep under a cork. In December, most fish will be in the deeper places. Try fishing up the rivers and creeks. If you would rather fish a lure, throw a jig and fish it real slow near the bottom. When the water gets in the low 50s, fish everything real slow. Everything will depend on how cold the weather is. If the water gets below 50, the only good bite will be stripers up the rivers. Last year, we caught trout all winter. The strangest thing to happen lately was catching a tarpon in November on a shrimp way up the Ogeechee. Be careful if you get out on the water in the cold weather. Have a great Christmas.”

Offshore Artificial Reefs: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “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 and bulk up for winter migrations. Best baits for sheepshead, black drum and trophy redfish are going to be the purple-back fiddlers, 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 perfect meal. Best baits for the 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 rod in holder. Another baiting-up method for flounder is take a 3-oz. jig head and 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. Old-time fishermen used to say that before you set the hook, 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005, 1006, and then set the hook. If you miss the set, I suggest quickly dropping your bait back and letting it just sit. It is going to be a waiting game to see if the fish will give eating another try. If sharking is on your mind and if you are looking for an unbelievable fight of grand portions, I suggest bringing along some squid or cut up some freshly caught fish. Another great bait when targeting shark is going to be a belly strip cut from a sheepshead. All you have to do is cut the belly out of the fish, hook it up and put it on the bottom. Removing the belly from this fish still allows the sheepshead to be intact, meaning tail and head still allowing for any official measuring. It’s best to try to place this bait as far on the outskirts of the structure as possible. Cast these bait as far as you can from where you are anchored. Always check state and federal regulations for any closers and size limit. For state, and for federal go to During a normal winter season, all sizes of black fish make their way to most all artificial reefs in search of a colder water hold up. This is the best time to find large schools of these fish holding on all types of structure from the lower relief to wrecks. Large summer trout are 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 small pieces of cut fish, squid and cigar minnows. With the grouper season open until Dec. 31, you still have time. 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 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. Grouper not only take advantage of its camouflage of blending in but also its ability to get into tight spots. I always suggest using the preferred live baits, such as pinfish, ruby red lips, sand perch and rock bass when targeting grouper. No respectable large fish, at least most of the time, will leave an already target-rich feeding environment for the likes of something that may or may not be worth its travels. These live baits normally offer up a grand incentive for a grouper to make a serious feeding move.”  

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, cutfish 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 rig. These types of baits are known for triggering a fish bite that might have not existed!  And believe me fresh dead/halves of minnows in most cases work great!  All of these baits bring on the attention of black sea bass, vermilion snapper, white grunts, porgy, trigger fish 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 and grouper. Before heading out, I always suggest checking with for current offshore regulations.”

Blue Water: Capt. Judy Helmey reports, “This is one of those fishing opportunities that most fishermen don’t even think about. However, if you get the chance and want to make the run to the blue water off the Georgia coast, this would be a great time to find yourself involved in a strong line stretching ordeal. Our blackfin tuna run is 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 not talking about colored cedar plugs. I am suggesting the actual plug that is made with cedar showing, 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 attentions of fish. Smaller fish are attracted by the oil as well as the larger ones. We all have something in common the fish want to eat and the fishermen want to catch. For those fishermen who want 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 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 10 ounces. For the best jigging results, I suggest using braid as main line and a fluorocarbon leader above the jig. It’s time to go, because now you know!”

2022 Captain Judy’s Inshore/Offshore Fishing Clinics: School is in! Join Capt. Judy and her staff for some educational time on the water. Dates are Feb. 18-20 2022. Cost is $180 for inshore and $180 for offshore. Morning trips are 8 a.m. until noon. Afternoon trips are 1 to 5 p.m. Snacks and drinks provided by Captain Judy Place. Leaving from Miss Judy Charters dock, 202 Wilmington Island Road, Savannah, Ga. 31410. Call 912.897.4921 or 912.897.2478 for more details.”

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